Clash with Hull KR is massive for Leeds Rhinos says James Donaldson
This week's visit to Hull KR is “massive” for Leeds Rhinos as they battle to shake off their ‘gallant losers’ tag, Rovers’ old boy James Donaldson says.
Rhinos are on a three-game losing run - each against an unbeaten team - but their young side, missing as many as 12 first-choice players, have earned enormous credit for the effort and commitment shown.
Friday brings a new challenge as Leeds visit one of the teams expected to be battling relegation this year and Donaldson said it is crucial they start to get some wins on the board, before battling losses become a habit.
“It has been a tough start with the personnel missing,” the 29-year-old forward, who played for Hull KR from 2015-2018, said.
“We are not using that as an excuse, we’ve been trying our socks off in those games, but we need to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.
“It becomes infectious, winning - once you get one, it is easy to get the second and third.
“I think the squad really needs that pick up at the moment because we know how hard we’ve been trying.
“The effort has been through the roof, it is just getting that win that’s vital for us now.”
Despite the run of defeats, Donaldson is “really, really proud” of the way patched-up Rhinos performed in the early stages of the season.
“I think this team has flicked a switch now on our mentality and our ruthlessness which really was needed,” he reflected.
“Hopefully this is a stepping stone going forward and we’ll be really excited about coming up against those teams later in the season.”
Leeds could have several first-choice players returning this week and Donaldson added: “It is encouraging for the boys coming back, in that the standard the team has set on effort is massive.
“I think we’ve come a long way in that respect, especially our pack. I don’t think our pack has set a standard like that for a few years and I think we have really been missing that.
“It is exciting, actually - we are doing it tough at the moment, but the boys who have come in have really stepped up to the plate.
“With a few more halves in the squad, hopefully we won’t be too far off.”
Mikolaj Oledzki, Rhinos’ 22-year-old front-rower, has gone up a level in tough circumstances this year.
Donaldson, who has played for 80 minutes in the past two games, insisted: “Mik has probably been one of our best players this year so far and I’d go as far as saying he is one of the best front-rowers in the comp’ at the moment, the way he is playing and his attitude.
“He is maturing, he knows what he needs to bring to get his best game and if he brings that for Leeds every week, he’s a machine.”
Rovers broke their duck with a one-point win over Huddersfield Giants last week and Friday will be just as tough as recent weeks, according to Donaldson.
“You never know what to expect from them, but I’m sure they’ll be really enthusiastic,” he warned.
“They had a great win last week, they throw the ball around a lot and I think it’ll be a really exciting game.”
But the Cumbrian isn’t putting extra emphasis on this week because he’ll be facing his previous club.
He stressed: “I always go out with the intention to play my best game every week, no matter what it is.
“We do need to be playing our best game every single week because there’s some really tough competition in Super League this year and you have to be ready to go.”
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