LEEDS RHINOS’ Australian forward Adam Cuthbertson will be on duty at Emerald Headingley tomorrow as both a player and coach - in two separate, but crucial fixtures.
The 34-year-old is in charge of Rhinos’ women’s team who play St Helens in a curtain-raiser (12.30pm) to the men’s clash with Hull which kicks off two-and-a-half hours later.
The two Rhinos teams have played on the same day before, but tomorrow will be only the second time the women have played at Headingley and their debut in an undercard match.
Saints are second in Women’s Super League, one place ahead of Leeds on points difference, but Rhinos won there in a Challenge Cup semi-final two weeks ago.
That victory set up a Cup final showdown with Castleford Tigers at Bolton next Saturday as the opening part of a triple-header also involving both men’s semi-finals. This weekend’s game is a vital fixture in the league, but also an opportunity for Leeds’ women to show what they can do on a big stage.
“It’s a brilliant concept having a team playing before the main fixture, just to get bums on seats,” Cuthbertson said.
“It gives people bang for their buck with the ticket price. It’s brilliant having a curtain-raiser for rugby league games because I think it creates a bit more of an event, as opposed to a one-off game when fans tend to get in and then leave fairly quickly.
“It is an opportunity to see a bit more of what’s going on behind the scenes at the club, whether it’s the Under-19s or the women. It is exciting and for us it is a big game because we want to continue our momentum after a really good win in the semi-final against St Helens.”
Cuthbertson insisted his side aren’t focusing on the final yet, but admitted: “You can’t help but start prepping around now for that game.
“We will field a really strong team and the girls will put on a good display. Saints are sitting even with us on points so it’s a big game in the sense it could turn the table a bit if we don’t pick up the win.
I thought as a team we had found some consistency and some things that were working and we went away from that last week. The challenge for us is just to get a reaction.Adam Cuthbertson
“We had a big win against them a couple of weeks ago in the cup, but this weekend is for the two points and it can affect what happens at the finish of the season. It is a really big game and we have got our eyes on the two points.”
With Cuthbertson also having a game to play in tomorrow, his assistants Leon Crick and David and Anthony Gibbons - who played for Rhinos in the 1990s - will manage the women’s side.
“I might get in there for a few words prior to the game,” Cuthbertson said. “The thing is with coaching, most of your job’s done during the week at training and then really you just need a coach to manage it well - substitutions, little tweaks in the game you might pick up on and need to change at half-time.
“I think two of our fixtures have collided this year, but in these circumstances it is good. The girls know what they are getting with the boys who step in and they do a really good job.
“Unfortunately I can’t be there for the whole day because I have got to worry about my own job first and foremost, which is getting the win with the boys, but they [the women’s side] are in steady hands.”
In the men’s fixture it is Leeds’ opponents who are preparing for a big game at Bolton next week when Hull take on Warrington in the first cup semi-final. But Rhinos desperately need points to pull away from danger and Cuthbertson admitted they must put last week’s dismal effort against Hull KR behind them and regain the form they showed in their two previous games against Catalans Dragons and Castleford Tigers.
“I thought as a team we had found some consistency and some things that were working and we went away from that last week,” he said. “The challenge for us is just to get a reaction. We are coming up against a really good Hull team who are looking for some form themselves going into a big semi-final.”
Of his own form, Cuthbertson feels he is flourishing under interim-coach Richard Agar. He said: “I am starting to play a bit better football, starting to play to my strengths. That is really helped by Rich and the team. When we are really humming and going well, it’s easy to find that kind of form and consistency.
“I got the starting role a couple of weeks ago and that helped me find my feet a bit in the team and work a bit of a combination with the likes of Trent [Merrin] and Ava [Seumanufagai].
“That’s been one good thing, the balance of the ball player to your classic hit-up style forward has been quite good in the middle and we are starting to find quite a good combination.”