Leeds Rhinos ace Danny McGuire gives his view from the dressing room
I WANT to say sorry to Rob Burrow, because I think I jinxed him in this column the other week, when I said he hardly ever gets injured.
Rob’s one of the most durable players in the game, so it’s a shock to know he’s going to be out for a long time.
A three-month lay-off is tough on anybody and a livewire character and fantastic player like Rob is going to be missed.
His fractured collarbone is really unfortunate and it gives us a bit of a dilemma in the hooking role, with Paulie Aiton out as well.
The important thing is I think we have got a good enough squad to cope with injuries. Obviously with Rob, Paulie, Jamie Jones and Stevie Ward all missing we can’t afford too many more, but we have got people who are versatile and can move around and cover various positions.
Rob was playing really well. He was causing the teams we’ve been playing all sorts of trouble and really getting us on the front foot, at important times in games.
He has had to get used to the No 9 role – and he will admit he would prefer to play half-back – but he’s been enjoying playing the full-80 over the last few games and he has been a revelation.
I think he is playing as well as he ever has and Rob, myself and Kev Sinfield have really begun to develop a good understanding.
We will miss that and he is a big loss for us, especially going into a really tough period in the season.
But there’s never a good time to be injured and 12 weeks is a long time. Hopefully Rob can get back in time for the Challenge Cup semi-final – if we are good enough to get that far – and the big games at the end of the year and when he does get back he’ll have had a mini-pre season and will be fresh and raring to go.
Playing Wigan a couple of times, plus Castleford, Hull and Warrington – and then Leigh in the Cup – it means the next six weeks or so are really important for us.
If we can maintain the sort of form we are in at the moment hopefully we can cement ourselves up at or near the top of the table and get through the the last four in the Cup.
Having Rob available would give us a better chance of doing that, but in a sport like rugby league injuries can happen to anybody at any time.
It was quite a routine tackle – and a total accident – that caused the damage and I suppose that goes to show how tough our game can be.
Nobody likes to see a team-mate get injured – or an opponent for that matter – but we will make the most of it until we get Rob and Paulie back. We will have to see how Brian McDermott decides to approach things, but sometimes it is when you get an injury that a young player steps forward and really shows what he can do. We have got a young hooker in the under-19s called Robbie Ward, who has been training a bit with us this year.
He knows all the players and it would be good to see him get an opportunity at some stage. When that happens I am sure he will show what he can do and underline that our youth system is working well and the stars of the future are in the pipeline.
THERE have been two pieces of good news this week: Joel Moon’s new contract and the Challenge Cup quarter-final draw.
Moony’s decision to sign a five-year deal is brilliant for us. He gets on great with everybody at the club and he has really settled in well.
His wife is expecting another baby soon, but he feels at home here and having spoken to him about his future I know he is delighted to be staying at Leeds. His form has been good so far and he is still only young. He is 25, so his best years are ahead of him.
It is another great piece of work by Gary Hetherington, because world-class centres aren’t easy to come by and having Kallum Watkins and Moony on the books is going to stand us in good stead.
In terms of the Cup draw, if we are totally honest we’d say Leigh or Keighley were the teams all the Super League sides wanted to draw.
Everyone says they aren’t bothered who they get, but of course you want a lower league team and being at home makes it even better.
This is no disrespect to Leigh, who won’t make it easy for us. They are unbeaten this year and playing really well, but it is better than drawing a Super League side and we have to be happy with it.
I played when we went to Leigh in the Cup quarter-finals two years ago and it was a tough game for the first 20 or 30 minutes, before we blew them away a bit.
But they are a better side now and I expect them to give us a tough game. I think it is a good tie for Leigh as well, because they are a club on the up, who are targeting a place in Super League. Their fans won’t have been to Headingley for a while so I am sure they will turn out in numbers and make themselves heard and it will be good for their players to see how they measure up against a Super League team.
Looking at the draw as a whole, it is a good one for us. Two of the form teams, Wigan and Castleford, have been drawn together and there’s another all-Super League tie between Bradford and Warrington.
The Wigan-Cas game will be tough to call and with things settling down a bit off the field, Bradford will hopefully be improving by the time the cup comes back around.
Ourselves and Widnes – who play Keighley – will be massive favourites to go through, but I think the other two games could go either way.
GAMES BETWEEN Leeds and Wigan are always massive and we have got two to look forward to in the next three weeks.
The way things are on the table at the moment, what happens tonight and at Magic Weekend could go a long way to deciding where we finish, though there is still a long way to go. I have been impressed with Wigan this year and obviously last season, when they won the Challenge Cup and Grand Final.
I think everyone underestimated them in 2013, because of the players they lost. More key men left the club last winter, but they are still racking up wins, scoring a lot of points and and looking very, very good.
That’s credit to their youth system and the way they are getting coached over there. They are a very good team and it will be a big challenge for us.
It will definitely show where we are. At the minute ourselves and Wigan are the form teams in the competition – though Cas are up there as well – and it will be great for us if we can get the upper hand with a win this time around.