Harry Newman: Leeds Rhinos ace says Super League semi-final at St Helens is biggest game of his career
This week's Betfred Super League semi-final at St Helens will be “the biggest game of my career so far,” Leeds Rhinos centre Harry Newman says.
At 21, Newman is already a member of the England elite squad, but has yet to play in a major semi-final or final for his club.
Rhinos are aiming for a first return to Old Trafford since 2017, when they won their eighth Super League title.
That was the season Newman made his debut and games like this week’s - when a win would take Rhinos through to the Grand Final eight days later - have been one of his motivations ever since.
Saints will be hot favourites, after finishing three places higher on the league table and hammering Rhinos at TW Stadium three weeks ago, but Newman insisted: “I am up for the challenge and so’s the team.”
He said: “Last week [an elimination play-off win at Wigan Warriors] was probably the biggest before this - my first play-off game.
“We’ve suffered quite a bit this year with Covid and injuries, but to get to this point, one game away from the Grand Final, is credit to the group and the staff here.
“We’ve had a great week’s prep’ after a big win last week.
“We’ve had two big training days, we’ll have a day off [today] and then the final training run on Thursday.
“The group’s feeling good.
“We’ve got a tight group here and we’re looking forward to the game.”
“We are one game away [from the title decider], but we can’t look too far ahead of ourselves.
“We’ve got a massive test this week against the two-time champions so we are just preparing for that.”
Newman suffered a badly broken leg in a Super League game against Hull KR on September 24 last year, less than two weeks before Rhinos’ Challenge Cup semi-final against Wigan.
He missed the Wembley victory over Salford Red Devils and the opening 13 games of this season, but is ever-present since making his comeback away to league leaders Catalans Dragons in July.
Newman will be one of Rhinos’ main attacking threats in two days’ time and is pleased with his recent form.
“I didn’t know how long it would take me to get back and to get back playing to a standard I want to play at,” he stated.
“It took a few games just to get back into it and get confidence back, but I feel now I am really getting there.
“I am starting to perform more consistently and to be involved in a semi-final is great.”
Despite missing the last month and a half of the campaign, Newman was Super League’s young player of the year in 2020, but reckons he has played better at times this season than before his long layoff.
“I think I’ve had games when I’ve been probably better than that,” he said.
“I feel better physically than I was before, definitely.
“I worked really hard on my strength during my time out of the game, but I am not done yet.
“I am still only 21, I have got a lot still to learn and a lot to strive for in the game.”
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