SUPER LEAGUE is quite a small world, so you tend to know most of the people you play against, even if it’s only to say hello.
Sometimes you have to go up against good mates and that’s the case for me – and a lot of the Leeds boys – when we play Wakefield.
It doesn’t make any difference to the way I play the game or to what happens on the field, but it probably does add a bit of spice to proceedings.
I have got some good mates at Wakey, like little Mac (Paul McShane), big Ali, Nick Scruton, Danny Kirmond and Richie Mathers.
I am having a meal with Richie tomorrow night and I imagine there will be some banter then, but when we are playing against each other other we don’t speak through the week.
We leave all that until afterwards.
Because I have got some mates there and they are a West Yorkshire team, I always like to see Wakey doing well.
They’ve had it tough this year, but I think tonight we will be in for a much harder game than the last couple of times we played them.
When we went there in the Cup, three months ago, they were going through tough times and we were playing really well.
We are not in such good form now, we aren’t playing as well as we would like and we have got to strive to get back to that level.
They are definitely a lot better team now than they were in the early part of the season.
Their new players have settled in, they have got Tim Smith back – which is big for them – and the change of coach has revitalised them.
A new voice sometimes does that, it gets you excited again and that is what seems to have happened there.
They are on the back of three good results, including a fantastic win over Wigan and they will want to get another scalp.
Even though we had a big win there last time, it is never an easy place to go and get a victory.
It’s quite a hostile environment and I think we are probably the team their supporters most like to beat.
But if we are going to achieve what we want to this season, it is a game we need to win.
We are not playing as well as we would like at this stage of the season, but we have won our last two and we need to keep winning.
You don’t have to be a mastermind to see that we need to tighten up defensively. That was an area where we were really strong earlier in the season, but some of the tries we have been conceding in recent weeks have been soft.
We are conceding too many points and this is the time of year when we need to be fixing things up for the back end and the really big games.
It is not just defensively, we have to be better across the board.
We have still got players missing, but overall the injury situation seems to be improving a bit and hopefully we should get key men back over the next few weeks.
That will certainly help us and hopefully we can have a really strong run-in to the back end of the year.
I AM proud to have a 100 per cent record as Leeds Rhinos captain: Played one, won one.
JP was listed as skipper on the teamsheet for last week’s game, but about half an hour before kick-off Brian McDermott told me I had got the job.
It was the first time I have been captain, almost exactly 13 years after my debut and to be honest, I was really chuffed.
When you play half-back you have to be like a captain anyway, making decisions and guiding the team around the field, but it was a really proud moment.
Kev Sinfield has been captain for most of the time I have been in the first team here and I have never really given it a thought.
It is a privilege to play at this club and with the great players we have got here and I try not to take it for granted, but to be able to walk out first was something really special and quite emotional. I was really glad we were able to sneak a win and I would have been extra-gutted if we had lost.
I tried not to do anything different last week and I probably do as much talking on the field normally as Kev does when he’s captain. When Kev speaks, everyone listens and he always says the right things, no matter what the situation. I think the key is probably to have an input when it’s needed and not just to talk for the sake of it. One of the bonuses of playing at Leeds is we have a team full of leaders and experienced players, the likes of JP and Rob Burrow, who would be captain at any other club.
Fortunately, there wasn’t much of a decision to be made when it came to the late penalty. With 30 seconds to go I had resigned myself to the fact we were going to lose, so that last opportunity was a real gift. I think we all know Liam Sutcliffe has the potential to be a special player and the experience of having to take – and landing – a pressure kick like that will be good for him in the future.
He had missed three earlier in the game, but I have seen him in practice and he is a good kicker, he strikes the ball well and things like that don’t seem to faze him.
In the context of our season, it was a big moment for us last weekend.
We needed the win and it kept us three points clear of all the teams battling for third spot.
If we had lost we would have been right back in the mix, fighting to hang on to a top-four place, but having said that I think Catalan played really well and if they had hung on they would have deserved to win.
ANDY YATES must be the unluckiest man in the game.
He did his Achilles at the start of pre-season training last November, got through all his recovery and re-hab, played one game for Hunslet Hawks and ruptured his biceps. It’s a 12-week injury, so he probably isn’t going to play a game for Rhinos this year and everybody at the club is gutted for him. It’s tough being injured at any time and I can imagine how Yates, above, is feeling.
But for it to happen in his first year at the club and to have his entire season wiped out, it must be massively frustrating. He is still getting used to being a full-time player and part of a Super League environment, but when he has been able to train he has looked really good. He worked hard to get back in the mix after his Achilles and having to go right back to square one is a huge blow. He will get all the support he needs from the club and the important thing is for him to stay positive.
That’s not easy, but I know from experience that the more positive you are the quicker you heal and you can get back to playing and doing the things you love.