WOUNDED LEEDS Rhinos will have to beat a team at the “peak of their powers” to win a fourth world title.
That is the warning from Australian forward Keith Galloway ahead of Rhinos’ showdown with North Queensland Cowboys in the Dacia World Club Challenge tomorrow.
The ex-Wests Tigers prop has seen at close hand what North Queensland can do and reckons Rhinos will be facing a team with no obvious weak links.
“They have been a strong side for a number of years,” Galloway said of tomorrow’s visitors, who beat Brisbane Broncos in last year’s NRL Grand Final.
“I think they have been building in the NRL for a while and they are at the peak of their powers at the moment.
“They have got a really strong roster. They are strong all over the park and they have a fair few representative players in their team.
“The whole forward pack is strong and they lay the platform, then obviously their halves are Queensland players and their backline is strong.”
Galloway is hoping Rhinos’ fans can create an intimidating atmosphere, but is not banking on the weather helping the home team.
North Queensland are based in tropical Townsville and Galloway said: “I definitely don’t think they will have experienced cold like this up there, or even in Sydney.
“They are going to be feeling the cold, but they are here to play and I don’t think the weather is going to play too much of a part.”
It would be a massive challenge for a fully-fit and in-form Rhinos side, but Leeds have lost their opening two First Utility Super League games, were crushed 56-12 at Widnes Vikings last week and are without seven players due to injury. But Galloway insisted: “We are going to go out and give it our best.
“We are playing at our home ground, in front of our home crowd. We’ve just got to go out there and play our best and if we’re good enough we will win it.”
The loss at Widnes was Rhinos’ worst result for four years, but Galloway is confident they will respond the right way.
“It hurts, coming off the field after a loss like that,” he said.
“But that’s the thing about rugby league, we are playing again seven days later and it’s chance to put in a good performance and forget about last week.
“Last Sunday was terrible, we didn’t play well at all and Widnes were brilliant, but we will bounce back.”
Galloway made 210 appearances in the NRL for Cronulla Sharks and Wests and was capped three times by Australia, but there will be no divided loyalties tomorrow.
Australian sides have dominated the World Club Challenge since Leeds’ win over Manly in 2012 and Galloway said: “I am living in Leeds and I am playing for Leeds.
“I feel like I belong here and I am enjoying my time here.
“It has been a disappointing first two weeks of the competition, but the club is brilliant, the supporters are brilliant and all the boys in the team are first class.
“Everyone you meet on the streets and around the place is happy and friendly and I am really enjoying my stay here.”
Off-season signing Anthony Mullally has been named among Rhinos’ substitute for what will be his competitive debut.
Josh Walters is also on the bench, for his first appearance since scoring the crucial try in last year’s Grand Final.
Ash Handley has been recalled from a dual-registration spell with Featherstone Rovers and will replace injured winger Tom Briscoe.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Handley, Watkins, Moon, Hall, Sutcliffe, Lilley, Galloway, Burrow, Cuthbertson, Ferres, Delaney, Singleton. Subs: Garbutt, Keinhorst, Walters, Mullally.
North Queensland Cowboys: Coote, Feldt, O’Neill, Linnett, Winterstein, Morgan, Thurston, Scott, Granville, Tamou, Cooper, Lowe, Taumalolo. Subs: Kostjasyn, Asiata, Bolton, Hannant.
Referee: Richard Silverwood.
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 7pm.