AUSSIE PROP Mitch Garbutt’s feet have hardly touched the ground since he first heard he was on Leeds Rhinos’ radar.
The 26-year-old jetted into Leeds-Bradford Airport on Saturday and was meeting his new team-mates for the first time today, less than a month after joining Rhinos became an option.
“It has happened very quickly, but we are really excited to be here,” Garbutt, who is an overseas quota player, said in his first interview since arriving in England. “I just can’t wait to start playing. I am looking forward to getting around and meeting everyone and getting started.”
Leeds originally had 26-year-old Garbutt in mind for 2016, but salary cap issues at Brisbane and the form of their established props meant he became available for this year.
“We’ve been talking to Gary [Hetherington, Rhinos’ chief executive] for a couple or three weeks now,” he confirmed. “As soon as I found out this was an option I told my manager to get it sorted straight away.”
NRL clubs Manly and Parramatta were keen on Garbutt when Brisbane Broncos made it clear they were prepared to let him go, but he stressed: “I was really excited about the opportunity to come over here.
“It is something we always thought we’d like to do, come over here at some stage. The opportunity came up a bit quicker than I thought it would and I jumped at it. I’ve watched the Rhinos on TV, there’s a lot of good players in there and they’ve been a really successful club over recent years. They are having a really good season this year too, so hopefully I can help out in some way.”
It is an interesting time for Garbutt, who has been awarded squad No 30, to arrive, with Leeds top of the table and through to another Challenge Cup semi-final.
He added: “Hopefully we can maintain that success. We were delighted to come to Leeds, especially as it is such a good club and a strong club in the Super League To get over as quick as we did, it was a rush, but it has worked out for the best.”
Garbutt could make his debut against St Helens at Headingley on Friday.He said: “It’d be good if I could, but I’ll see what happens. They haven’t told me if I’m playing yet, but it’d be unreal if I could get on the field.”
Garbutt – 6ft 2 and almost 18 stone – hasn’t played in the last four weeks, but has been training and said he is “fit and ready to play”.
Since signing, he has been working on fitness drills supplied by Rhinos’ conditioner Jason Davidson, who also did the family’s grocery shopping and filled their car with fuel before meeting them at the airport on Saturday. Garbutt has travelled with his wife Ruth and three-month-old daughter Jordan-Coco, who was presented with a mini-Rhinos’ shirt, with her dad’s name on the back.
This is Garbutt’ first trip to England. Outlining his rugby league history, he said: “My junior club is West Newcastle. I am from Newcastle originally. I played all my juniors through them. I was with the Knights from under-16s to under-20s.
“I played a season of Bush rugby league, which is like a local league comp’ and then I got an opportunity to go to Melbourne Storm. I was down there for three years, then I went to the Broncos and now I’m here.
“I’d like to think I’ll be able to slot in and play my natural game here.
“That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway.”