Downer World Club Challenge: Rhinos ready to ‘go dark’ – Singleton

Leeds Rhinos prop, Brad Singleton, is fit to face Melbourne Storm. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Leeds Rhinos prop, Brad Singleton, is fit to face Melbourne Storm. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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BRAD SINGLETON knows he will have to go to a “dark place” to complete a set of major trophies.

After just two competitive games, Singleton is one of the last men standing in Leeds Rhinos’ front-row and with just three props in their 19-man squad for Friday’s Downer World Club Challenge, they will all have to stand up and be counted.

Injury-sidelined Leeds Rhinos prop, 'Mikolaj Oledzki.

Injury-sidelined Leeds Rhinos prop, 'Mikolaj Oledzki.

Victory over hosts Melbourne Storm in two days’ time would complete Singleton’s full house of Challenge Cup, league leaders’ shield, Super League and the world title.

That would be a notable achievement for a 25-year-old prop, but he knows a formidable team stand in the way and injuries make it an even tougher task for Rhinos.

“We understand we’ve got a job in hand, but even if they (the injured forwards) were all in we’d have a job in hand,” Singleton said.

“I don’t think too much changes. I think we are all going to have to go to a dark place and we will have that in our heads before we go out there, so it doesn’t matter what they throw at us – we have got a big job to do.”

Injury-sidelined Leeds Rhinos prop, Anthony Mullally. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Injury-sidelined Leeds Rhinos prop, Anthony Mullally. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Singleton moved up to squad No 10 in the closed season and captained Rhinos in the Boxing Day game against Wakefield Trinity. He is relishing the prospect of more game time.

“I enjoy being out there as long as I can and getting a feel for the game from the first minute to the 80th minute,” he said.

“It will be a tough job and it is up to us middles to set the platform.”

Storm, the NRL minor premiers and Grand Final winners, are huge favourites to beat Leeds for the third time in the clubs’ fourth world title match, but Singleton admitted: “This week we have had a build-up of looking at Melbourne, but personally I don’t watch much NRL.

“Obviously, you have to respect the competition they play in and we are going against the best in the NRL. We are expecting a game that will match our Grand Finals. We are looking forward to it, I think when you go away as a group of lads you are excited because everything gets stripped back and everyone is so relaxed in the environment.

“Mac (coach Brian McDermott) gets us all singing off one page and we are looking forward to the task we’ve got. For me, it is a final and it’s the only trophy I haven’t won yet. It would be nice to complete the cabinet.”

The World Club Challenge is a much-criticised competition and only Rhinos’ willingness to travel Down Under saved it from being cancelled this year.

Storm were unwilling to travel to England at the start of a season following a World Cup, but have made it clear – now the game is on – they will be throwing everything at Leeds.

From Rhinos’ perspective, chief executive Gary Hetherington has been a leading advocate for the competition and Singleton said they are treating it as they would a major domestic final.

“It is a big game,” he stressed. “It is not often you get this opportunity because you have to win your Grand Final first and that itself is a tough ask. For me, I love winning and this is another final. Looking back, you can’t buy memories. A week away in Melbourne, to potentially do a job on the world’s best, is great.”

Singleton’s fellow Ireland international Anthony Mullally saw his hopes of playing in Friday’s game – which kicks-off at 9am UK time – shattered when he fractured a finger in last Thursday’s win over Hull KR.

He joined Keith Galloway, Mitch Garbutt, Nathaniel Peteu and rookie Mikolaj Oledzki on the front-row casualty list and Singleton said: “It’s a shame for him.

“He has come on leaps and bounds since he’s been at the club.

“He’s great to play with and you’d want him in your 17. It’s a freak injury you would not wish on anyone and I know he’d have loved this opportunity to test himself against the best, but he won’t let himself get too down about it and he’ll look forward to the season ahead.”

l Betfred odds: Billy Slater to score the first try of the game is 8-1 at bookmakers Betfred – and Cameron Smith is 20-1 for first try of the game.