BY THE time you read this, we should be in the air somewhere between Manchester and Melbourne.
I am writing this before the Hull KR game, but the plan was to travel straight from the ground to a hotel at the airport and then jump on a flight in the morning, so we should touch down in Melbourne on Saturday evening.
It’s a long way to go for a week, but I’ve been looking forward to this since the fixture was announced three months ago and I know all the boys feel the same.
The World Club Challenge gets written off by some people as a load of nonsense, but for me it is one of the biggest matches in the sport and chances to play in it don’t come around very often.
Only the best teams get this opportunity. All the work you put in during pre-season and everything you go through from February to October gets you this far.
To even play in the World Club you have to win your own competition, which is incredibly difficult and then to go on and beat the top team from the other hemisphere, it is the ultimate challenge in rugby league.
I was gutted when it looked like the game wouldn’t happen this year and it is fantastic Gary Hetherington and Brian Mac and everyone at Leeds have put so much effort into keeping the competition alive.
If we can win this game we will have achieved something special. It is hard enough to beat the NRL Premiers in England and to do it over there is something that hasn’t been done for more than 20 years.
It would be outstanding for the Super League competition and the British game and for us as an organisation.
We are going to be going there as underdogs and I don’t suppose anyone outside our changing room really thinks we can win, but we will be giving it our very best shot.
I’ve seen Melbourne described as one of the best club sides of all time. They are certainly a brilliant team and nobody beats them without producing a 10/10 performance.
I have been playing against their big three – Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith – and their coach Craig Bellamy for a number of years and I’ve only managed to get the better of them once.
It is no fluke what they do; they are very structured and they make a lot of tactical decisions which enable them to be successful.
The way they manage their team in certain positions is really impressive.
They don’t go out and spend a lot of money bringing players into the club; a lot of their success has been built upon juniors coming through and getting the right people in the key positions, especially the halves and hookers.
But Cooper isn’t there now and that might make them a little vulnerable. There’s no excuses on their part because we are in a very similar position, with Danny Mags and Rob Burrow both no longer in the team. They were a massive part of the winning culture Leeds have developed over the last few years and we are having to manage without them, but I definitely think we have more chance against a Melbourne team without Cooper than with him.
People have been asking me how we are going to manage to cope with all the travel and jetlag. It’s a fair question, but I actually don’t think it will be a huge issue for us because of the attitude we’ve got towards the game.
We want to be there and we’ve been looking forward to it for months. Everyone has been focusing on Warrington and Hull KR, but Melbourne have been at the back of our minds and we are all excited about what is in front of us, so I think that will get us over the line.
We are keen to get into the game and give it our all and I think the fact we are underdogs will inspire us as well.
It is going to be a great experience for the boys who haven’t played at AAMI Park before.
I don’t know what the marketing has been like, but hopefully there’ll be a big crowd and it will be very different to playing in England.
There’s a lot of English folk living in Melbourne and I reckon they will come out and support us.
It’s not so good for fans back in Leeds, because it’s a 9am kick-off on Friday so you’ll have to take the morning off work, but, if so, we will be giving our all to do everyone proud.