Fit-again Matt Prior can’t wait for Leeds Rhinos’ season opener against Hull FC

Leeds Rhinos' Matt Prior.Leeds Rhinos' Matt Prior.
Leeds Rhinos' Matt Prior.
AUSTRALIAN SIGNING Matt Prior is ready and raring to go for Leeds Rhinos after shaking off a sickness bug.

Prior arrived in England late last month and played in Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s testimonial match against Bradford Bulls 15 days ago.

He was also due for a hit out in Leeds’ final full-scale warm-up, away to Wigan Warriors the following week, but missed out because of illness.

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He is back in training now and available for Sunday’s visit of Hull in Betfred Super League round one.

Matt Prior in action for Cronulla Sharks.Matt Prior in action for Cronulla Sharks.
Matt Prior in action for Cronulla Sharks.

“It was only for a few days,” Prior reported. “I didn’t eat much for a couple of days, so Rich [Agar, Rhinos’ coach] gave me the weekend of the game off and I am all better now.”

The 32-year-old front-rower trained with his former club Cronulla Sharks up until Christmas so isn’t concerned about his lack of match practice.

“I am feeling good,” he said. “I’ve got plenty of training in my legs so I’m ready to go. We’ve still got almost a week to go and we can get a lot done in that time.”

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Rhinos’ pack will need all hands on deck against a Hull side built on size and power. Prior predicted: “It will be a massive test for us.

Mikolaj Oledzki.Mikolaj Oledzki.
Mikolaj Oledzki.

“Obviously they have got a massive forward pack, they have got a few new signings and they will be a good team this year.

“We will have to be on our game. It will be a good test for us and show us where we’re at. It is a good challenge and I think all the boys are really up for it.”

Rhinos have lost their opening Super League fixture in three of the last four seasons. After last season’s relegation battle a good start would lift confidence in the camp and on the terraces.

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Prior accepted: “You don’t want to be chasing your tail so it’d be nice to get a few wins straight off the bat.

Tom Holroyd.Tom Holroyd.
Tom Holroyd.

“I don’t know if it’s that big a deal, whether you get off to a good start or not, but we’ll be looking to get off to a good one anyway.”

Sunday will be an historic occasion when Emerald Headingley stages Betfred Super League’s first double-header, with Castleford Tigers taking on promoted Toronto Wolfpack before Leeds’ game.

Prior has already had a taste of a Headingley full-house during the clash with Bradford.

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He said: “I am looking forward to it, it’ll be massive. I am not sure if it’s a sell-out, but it’ll be close to and it’ll be good to get back out at Headingley and get another run.”

Twice an NRL Grand Final winner, with St George-Illawarra Dragons and Cronulla, Leeds’ new number 10 will have been at the club just over a month when the season begins.

“I am settling in,” he reflected. “It has taken a couple of weeks, but every week I get a bit more settled and a bit more comfortable and relaxed with the environment and training and everything like that. I am really starting to feel like I am finding my feet.”

Though he didn’t know a great deal about Rhinos’ squad before he arrived, Prior has been “impressed” with what he has seen. He observed: “I think we have got some great young players coming through and we’ve got a good mix of older lads and a few guys in between.

“I feel like it really balances the squad out.

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“I’ve been really impressed with a lot of the boys at training, they have been training really hard in the pre-season and I think they are in for a big year.”

At the other end of the scale to Prior, Rhinos have two highly-rated young front-rowers in 18-year-old Tom Holroyd and Mikolaj Oledzki who is 21.

“I’ve been very impressed with the way they train and the way they’ve been playing is very good,” Prior said. “Tom had a hand injury and came straight back against Wigan and did a good job. I think they both have massive futures and I am looking forward to watching them develop over the next few years.”