Leeds Rhinos’ young guns have shown they are ready to step up – Luke Gale

THERE HASN’T been a fixture pile-up like this during my career and it is going to be tough for everyone, but we are up for it.

Monday, 26th October 2020, 7:00 am
Tom Holroyd on the charge against St Helens. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

We knew getting to the Cup final would take its toll.

We have had to play midweek fixtures, we’ve not had a break since the resumption and – ironically – our bye comes in the final round so that doesn’t help us much.

We have had to play midweek fixtures already, with more to come, but I see it as a great opportunity.

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Alex Sutcliffe is held by James Bentley of St Helens. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

We have won one trophy, we are still in the hunt for another and we are going to dig in and give it our best shot.

The young kids gave a good account of themselves against Saints the other night and are going to have more opportunities, which they’ll benefit massively from.

The phrase they’ve used on Sky Sports is Baby Rhinos and I quite like that. The Baby Rhinos have shown they can step up.

Normally, when a young kid comes in he is playing in a team that is full of experience, like Josh Simm of Saints last Friday.

Callum McClelland in action against St Helens. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

That’s when you’ll see them at their best light so it has been tough with our young kids all playing together.

When they get put in alongside a bit more experience they will look a million dollars.

It is good we have been able to blood them and I am sure they’ll pay us back in the long run.

With all these games coming up in a short space of time, the team with the strongest squad will come out on top.

We are a couple of games down because we’ve had to sacrifice some, but that’s the way it is this year.

If you look at the top four, they have all got deep squads and that has definitely helped.

Having young players in the team is good as well because their bodies can get through it a bit easier.

Personally, I like short turnarounds because there’s less training. You just go from game to game and I enjoy that.

I think it’s a lot more mental than physical, you have to get yourself right mentally.

I think we have got six games in 17 or 18 days so it is a challenging time, but we are looking forward to it.

Castleford Tigers are next up at Headingley tonight and that is one I have been looking forward to all year.

I have still got a lot of friends there and Daryl Powell sent me a well done message the day after the Cup final. He said ‘see you next week – and don’t forget your shoulder pads’!

It is exciting. They have been struggling a bit, though they had a good win last week, but I know from my time there what it’s like to play Leeds Rhinos, having done it many times.

Castleford always raise their game and I am sure they will be extra-motivated.

I know what it means to their fans and it is always a must-win game. It is for us as well, we need to get our win percentage up so I am sure it will be a good encounter.

Paul McShane is a good mate of mine and I reckon there’s a good chance of some sledging going on between us.

I remember playing for Cas a couple of years ago when Danny McGuire was on the other team.

He’s a good friend of ours, but Macca got into him and they almost came to blows!

I hope it doesn’t go that far, but we have a laugh about it whenever we see each other.

Macca is a good friend, but whenever you step over that white line it is game time.

This is my first article since the Cup final so I am not going to go through a whole column without mentioning it.

What a day that was, absolutely unreal – in more ways than one.

Because it was behind closed doors we didn’t get to have the sort of post-match celebrations most Cup winners do, but that probably made it more memorable.

Konny Hurrell brought his speakers and for two hours after the final whistle we were in the changing rooms, singing songs and dancing.

Eventually there was a knock on the door, which was the Wembley officials wanting to lock up.

They told us it was time we went home, so we got kicked out of Wembley and all piled on the bus, still in our kit.

It was one heck of a bus ride back to Leeds and those are memories that will stay with us all forever.

It is not often you get to spend time together like that as a group after a big game.

In fact it is probably the first time a Challenge Cup-winning team has got on the bus still in their kit and had their meal at a motorway services McDonald’s so it was quite an experience and a really memorable way to finish one of the best days of my career.

*****

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