Castleford Tigers v Leeds Rhinos - Mikolaj Oledzki says Super League derby is 'must win' for visitors
He has been a shining light in Leeds Rhinos’ poor start to the season, but big forward Mikolaj Oledzki insists it's the team that matters most.
Oledzki was called up to train with England last month and has been arguably Rhinos’ best player in their eight competitive games so far.
Ever-present in 2021, the front-rower feels he is “making some big steps forward, individually”, but - at the same time - insists there is still a lot more in the tank.
Aged just 22, Oledzki - who was born in Gdansk, Poland and took up rugby league as a teenager at Hunslet Warriors - already has 74 Leeds appearances under his belt and is an established first-choice prop in Betfred Super League.
He is still learning the game, but has made a conscious effort to work on his weaknesses and reckons that is paying off.
“There’s stuff I wasn’t happy with last year that stopped me reaching that next level,” Oledzki admitted.
“I feel like this year I have really stepped it up in those areas and my game is more fluent and more consistent.”
Oledzki identified defence as the main area of concern.
“There were a few little areas that added up to one thing which was my D,” he said.
“That was the thing I wanted to improve on.
“I feel like this year my defence has been much better than in previous years.
“I feel my offense, my carries, are where I want them to be - though I do want them to be slightly better.
“I still have stuff to improve on and a long way to go before I am where I want to be, but I am happy with where I am at the moment.”
That said, Oledzki - already an England Knights international - stressed: “The main thing is to start picking up some wins for the team.”
After seven of the regular season’s 25 rounds, Rhinos are ninth in Betfred Super League,
A defeat at Castleford Tigers tomorrow would leave them three wins adrift of their opponents, who hold the final play-offs spot.
Rhinos have managed just two victories, both against Wakefield Trinity and Oledzki conceded they need to get their season up and running.
“It is always a huge game against Cas, they always seem to turn it up that extra bit against us,” Oledzki said.
“It is always tough and we have been struggling for a win lately so it’s a massive game for us - like every other game.
“The last few have all been massive, but this one is must-win for us.”
Tigers have lost their last two league matches and will want to build some form and confidence for next weekend’s Betfred Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington Wolves.
That means both teams are desperate for a win and Oledzki added: “Whenever we play Cas it is always a slightly bigger build-up than any other game.
“We know what’s coming and we are working hard to get the wrongs right.”
Tigers will have most of the support in a 3,600 all-ticket crowd, but Oledzki is relishing the experience.
“I’ve only played at the Jungle once, about two years ago,” he recalled.
“We didn’t play there last year because of Covid, but I know, even though they are home fans, they create an awesome atmosphere, so I am really looking forward to it.”
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