Festive Challenge: Cuthbertson keen to test adaptability to English game

Adam Cuthbertson. PIC: James Hardisty
Adam Cuthbertson. PIC: James Hardisty
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Expect the unexpected is the advice from new signing Adam Cuthbertson as he prepares to make his first appearance for Leeds Rhinos.

The former Manly, Cronulla, St George and Newcastle Knights forward is set to start at prop in the Tetley’s Festive Challenge at home to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Boxing Day.

Cuthbertson, who would be eligible to play for England due to his Warrington-born father, has been tipped as ideally suited to the European game by his former Newcastle team-mate Danny Buderus, who was a Grand Final winner with Leeds in 2011.

And the player himself is looking forward to trying his hand in England’s most attack-minded style of rugby.

“I have always been a player who just tries to play what I see,” said the 29-year-old, who has signed a four-year contract with Rhinos.

“It might not always be predictable – the coach might not always be able to predict what I am going to do and sometimes I can’t predict what I am going to do myself!

“I just try to play footy and one of the things I have always tried to do, a part of my game that has always been strong, is just promoting the ball to a player in a position better than myself after taking the line on.

“I think that part of it will really work well in a team like this and a competition like this.

“Bedsy [Buderus] has told me plenty about the comp and reckons I’ll do good, so hopefully everything sticks to plan and works out.”

Cuthbertson revealed he is no stranger to Rhinos’ style of play.

“I did follow them in the past, on tv, ” he said. “The games are on a bit early in Australia, but once I signed I did find myself getting up a bit earlier to watch their games.

“They play a really tough and exciting brand of footy and I am really excited to get among it.

“I am enjoying being with the boys and the way we’ve been training has been taking us to another level, so it’s exciting times.”

Having only begun training on December 1, Cuthbertson is still coming to terms with his new surroundings.

But he reckons an early opportunity to play is ideal as he bids to adjust to British conditions.

“The first week was more or less about just adapting,” Cuthbertson said.

“I found it pretty hard, just getting through the jetlag, the time zone difference and obviously the cold as well, so there were a few factors.

“But after a week or so, this week coming in I have been finding it pretty easy.

“It is just a matter of getting used to the team and the calls, but that will happen in due time.

“It is a blessing that we are playing this early, because it gives me an opportunity to put it all into a game situation.”

Friday’s game comes mid-way through pre-season and seven weeks before Rhinos’ First Utility Super League opener at Hull KR on Sunday, February 8 – which is much earlier than Cuthbertson is used to.

But he said: “The fact it’s coming around so soon does make it exciting.

“Usually you have to wait six weeks after Christmas before you get your first game over in the NRL, so it’s very good for me.”

Cuthbertson was a member of the Manly Sea Eagles team which beat Rhinos 28-20 at Elland Road in the 2009 World Club Challenge and the atmosphere created by the crowd is one of his lasting memories.

“I got a taste of it back then and it’s exciting stuff to play in front of them,” he said of his first taste of Rhinos’ famous South Stand. “It should be good, I am really looking forward to it and hopefully we can get a win to keep them happy as well.”

A first Christmas on the other side of the world could be a tough time.

But Cuthbertson, who has been accompanied by his girlfriend, insisted he is enjoying the English lifestyle.

“I am really enjoying the town – the city’s great,” he stated.

“I am living just outside the city and the fact you can go down into the city on your day off and keep yourself busy is really good.

“The weather’s not been too bad and I have been adapting and enjoying it.

“It has been a great couple of weeks so far, but in saying that I haven’t had much free time because we’ve been training quite a bit.

“But when I get out and about it has been great.”

Leeds Rhinos: Golding, Handley, Keinhorst, T Briscoe, Duckworth, Sutcliffe, McGuire, Leuluai, Aiton, Cuthbertson, Jones-Buchanan, Achurch, S Ward. Subs Singleton, Yates, Walters, Mulhern, R Ward, Lilley.

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: from Hall, Johnstone, Ryan, Riley, Owen, Miller, T Smith, Simon, McShane, Paea, Kirmond, Ashurst, D Smith, Washbrook, Kirke, Scruton, Annakin, Godinet, Crowther, Jowitt.

Referee: Ben Thaler.

Kick-off: Friday, 11.30am.