Leeds Rhinos' Brad Dwyer refreshed and ready for Catalans Dragons showdown in Super League play-offs

When Leeds Rhinos square up to Catalans Dragons in a Betfred Super League elimination play-off on Friday, it will be their first game for 12 days, following a punishing schedule of six in 20.

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 8th November 2020, 10:00 pm
Brad Dwyer. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
Brad Dwyer. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

The break has been welcome relief for the entire Rhinos squad, but especially hooker Brad Dwyer who played in all but one of those matches - an energy-sapping five appearances in 16 days.

That would be tough at the best of times, but the challenge was particularly daunting for a player who had contracted coronavirus just a month earlier.

Dwyer not only got through the fixture pile-up, which was unprecedented in Rhinos’ Super League history, but also scored the winning try at the end of it, sealing an 20-18 derby victory at Wakefield Trinity on November 1.

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Rhinos were given some time off after that game and Dwyer admitted: “We trained [last Friday] and I said I missed just going every two days and playing rugby, not having to train.”

It is not something he’d like to do on a regular basis, but Dwyer stressed: “I really enjoyed the challenge of going straight into the next game.

“I didn’t know what day it was at one point, but I really enjoyed the challenge of getting myself up.

“I had the bit between my teeth - it wasn’t ideal, but I thought why can’t we do this?”

According to Dwyer, the key to getting through so many matches in a such a short time was to “just try and get moving somehow”.

He said: “Obviously there’s no training, so it was just going for a walk.

“I was sick of chicken and chorizo pasta because it’s all I’d eaten for two weeks.

“It was moving, stretching and you can’t do too much because you want to save whatever energy you’ve got left.

“I was basically just filling myself up with as much food as I could and trying to get ready to go again.”

Dwyer returned a positive result for Covid-19 in routine testing after Rhinos’ win over Huddersfield Giants on September 13.

He was suspended for the following game and missed two after that, but returned when Rhinos beat Wigan Warriors in a Coral Challenge Cup semi-final on October 3.

“I certainly saw a difference after Covid,” he confirmed.

“I wasn’t recovering from games and was getting a bit of neural stuff in my back that was locking it right up.

“I was struggling to move, so I was getting treatment for that.

“My lungs and fitness-wise, I felt a bit off.

“Whether that was through Covid or from just missing two weeks training sat on the couch isolating, I’m not sure.

“It definitely impacted me when I came back and I was still suffering headaches from Covid last week, the same headaches.

“Whether it affected my recovery in the five games in however many days, I’m not sure - I’m not sure if it was the games or the Covid.

“What probably evened the playing field for me was that everyone was playing so many games in such a short time.

“It probably made everyone else feel as bad as I did.”

Dragons - Rhinos’ sudden-death opponents at HJ Stadium in Warrington on Friday - are coming off the other extreme, having played only once, a defeat at Salford Red Devils a week ago, since a home win over Hull KR on October 9.

“It’s probably not ideal for them, just like it’s not ideal for us to have played so many,” Dwyer said.

“There’s so many situations that aren’t ideal at the moment.

“Anyone could pick excuses up or moan about anything.

“At the end of the day we’re 80 minutes off a semi-final, which simplifies everything, and I’m sure that’s what they are thinking.

“They’ve got threats all over the park, they are a big pack and we’ve got to look after the ball and tire them out.

“If we can do that it puts us in a good position to play some rugby.

“It will be a massive battle up the middle and if we can control that it limits how much Sam Tomkins, James Maloney and Josh Drinkwater can do on the back of that, Israel Folau as well.

“We need to look after the ball and win the energy battle.”