Kicking on: Luke Briscoe ended a frustrating lack of first-team action at leeds and and is now targeting more game time. Peter Smith reports.
ON-LOAN Luke Briscoe is hoping to keep his place in Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ starting 13 after enduring a frustrating wait for first-team action.
Wildcats were forced to field a much-changed line-up for last Friday’s First Utility Super League fixture at Leeds Rhinos, with Dean Collis, Reece Lyne, Taulima Tautai and Daniel Smith all ruled out due to injuries picked up in the Challenge Cup defeat against the same opposition five days earlier.
The loss of Collis and Lyne meant Briscoe, 20, got an opportunity to play only his second top-flight game – his other senior appearance having come in the round three loss at Wigan Warriors.
Away matches against Wigan and his parent club Leeds were the toughest-possible introduction to Super League rugby, but the Featherstone Lions product insisted he’s happy to learn the hard way and now he is back in the side he wants to keep his place.
With Super League teams no longer running a reserve grade, Briscoe has been unable to gain any game time when not selected for the senior team.
Wakefield tried ending his loan spell and sending him back to Leeds, which would have allowed them to dual-register him with Hunslet, but that coincided with Hawks’ own centres hitting impressive form and he was unable to find an opening at the Kingstone Press Championship One club.
“It has been a bit frustrating, so it was just good to get back out there and play again,” Briscoe said of his recall to Wildcats’ team.
“It is going fine at Wakefield. Obviously I am on loan and the first choice is the first team, who are Wakefield players, but I am in the team now and I will kick on.
“I want to get game time. It is better than just training and not playing. Leeds have got a lot of depth and I’ve got more chance of playing Super League at Wakefield than I have at Leeds at the moment, so it’s good to have a year here. My aim is to get more game time and play week-in and week-out. I want to get more Super League experience and the more I play the better I will be.”
Luke is the younger brother of Leeds’ England winger Tom Briscoe, who was also in action four days ago.
“I’ve never played against Tom before,” Luke said. “I didn’t really see him much during the game, so it wasn’t any different to any other match. My parents were there, but they were supporting both of us – whoever had the ball. We were on opposite sides of the field so I didn’t see him, tackle him or go anywhere near him. He has done a lot more than me in the game and he’s very supportive.”
Of Friday’s game, which Leeds won 42-6, Briscoe said: “I thought we went well and we improved from the week before. There was more effort than last week and we picked our defence up. We can kick on from that. We can definitely turn things around, that’s our aim – to get up the table and away from relegation.”
One tactical change last Friday was Jarrod Sammut’s switch from stand-off to full-back, in place of Richard Mathers, with Paul Sykes taking over the play-making role. Sammut felt there were positives Wakefield could take, but he admitted they need a huge improvement in forthcoming games.
The Aussie, an early-season signing from Bradford Bulls, believes Wildcats are trying for parts of games, but not putting enough effort in over the whole match. Reflecting on Friday’s fixture he said: “The effort was there, especially at the back. I could see the boys were really busting a gut to try and get that extra yard and try and get back onside, but Leeds are a ruthless team and once we were on the back foot it was really hard to gain control. I thought the boys did really well, it was an improvement from last week, but we need to keep building and keep building and we can’t be happy with Friday’s result.”
Facing Leeds twice in six days was an unusual situation and Sammut admitted bouncing back from a 60-6 Cup loss was a tough feat. “The boys were really confident, but we came up well short,” he accepted.
“We thought we had a chance to put things right and really get some of our own back, but it wasn’t to be. We are building and working in the right areas, but it is a lack of effort for the full 80. We need to make sure mentally we are doing everything we can.”
This Friday’s home derby against Castleford Tigers will end the opening third of the league season. Having signed two key players during the campaign and with others arriving just before the action began, Wildcats are still trying to gel as a unit. Sammut said they will be better as they spend more time together, though he knows that is beginning to wear thin as an excuse.
He said: “The more we are in set positions and we keep training in those roles, obviously we are going to get more cohesion and things will start falling into place. But we still need to dish up things a lot better than we have been. On the flip side we have got a lot of people out injured and others who are playing a bit busted.
“Even so we have got 18 men ready to work their backside off for every man and the club and at times that shows.
“There’s other times when we need to get together and really stay in the arm wrestle for a lot longer than we are doing. At the moment we are battling for a good 20 minutes and then slowly we just start to fall by the wayside. We need to stay in the arm wrestle and when things don’t go our way, don’t worry about it. We need to stay positive.”