'It's not for me to say': Leeds Rhinos' Muizz Mustapha on his future, return from injury and try against Wigan Warriors

There was no shortage of memorable moments in Leeds Rhinos’ stunning 42-12 win over Wigan Warriors, but perhaps the best was substitute Muizz Mustapha’s late try.

By Peter Smith
Friday, 22nd July 2022, 4:45 pm

It was the 22-year-old’s first touchdown for Leeds and capped his return from a five-match ban.

“It was unbelievable,” Mustapha said of the touchdown which took Rhinos to 40 points.

“It has been a long year and a long few weeks with my ban.

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Muizz Mustapha scores Rhinos' seventh and final try in the shock win over Wigan. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“It was my first game back so it really meant a lot.”

Rhinos made only one substitution in the first half and Mustapha didn’t get on until deep in the second, but he was able to maintain the intensity established by the middle players.

That was despite not knowing he would be playing until the morning of the game.

He revealed: “I was 18th man, I did a bit in the gym [on Wednesday], then Rohan [Smith, Rhinos’ coach] pulled me to one side and said Corey’s ill you might be playing, depending on how he is.

Muizz Mustapha is congratulated by teammates after scoring against Wigan. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“He texted me [on Thursday morning] and said I’d be on the bench, so it was quite a surprise.

“You never know when you’re going to get on and I hadn’t had much game time, but I’ve just got to be ready any time he needs me.”

Mustapha was suspended after being sent-off for a dangerous throw in a reserves game against Warrington Wolves at the end of May.

The offence was originally graded E, which could have led to eight games on the sidelines, but a disciplinary hearing downgraded it to D.

Muizz Mustapha was among the celebrations after Brad Dwyer's try against Wigan. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

He was the first of Leeds’ props to return from a ban and Harry Newman was also back in the side against Wigan following suspension.

Matt Prior will be available for the visit to Catalans Dragons next Saturday, but fellow front-rowers Zane Tetevano and Tom Holroyd are still suspended.

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Of the past five weeks, Mustapha said - with a chuckle - “It hasn’t been too bad, because we’ve had a little group of players who’ve been banned, unfortunately - or fortunately for me.

“We’ve trained together so we’ve really bonded in that time we’ve had off and I feel like I have benefitted and grown from it.”

He added: “After that incident I have been working closely with Rohan and JJB [Jamie Jones-Buchanan] to change my tackle technique so it doesn’t happen in the future.

“I will be a bit more careful in the future and hopefully that incident doesn’t repeat itself.”

Mustapha is out of contract in the autumn, but hoped to add to his four senior appearances with Rhinos this year.

“Obviously I want to play for the rest of the season,” he stated.

“All I can do is keep training hard and taking every opportunity I can get and the rest is up to Rohan.

“This year has been up and down, I haven’t had much structure to my season, but I feel like I have grown because I never know what’s around the corner.

“It has kept me on my toes, so all I can do is prepare and take everything as it comes, rather than looking to the future.”

Mustapha came through Rhinos’ academy system and made his debut in a 2019 Challenge Cup win over Workington.

He has also featured on loan for Featherstone Rovers, Dewsbury Rams and Newcastle Thunder and spent last season at Hull KR.

“I’m not too sure yet, I have just got to keep playing my rugby and see what happens,” he said of his situation beyond this year.

Asked if he has been offered a deal by Leeds, he added: “It’s not really my place to say.

“I just want to play some rugby, that’s it - that’s all I care about.

“Everyone’s story is a bit different and I don’t know what my story’s going to be like.

“I’ve just got to keep on trying my best and hopefully I can progress, keep on playing week-in, week-out and become the player I want to be.”