INSIDE KNOWLEDGE ensures on-song forward Anthony Mullally is expecting a tough encounter for Leeds Rhinos at Huddersfield Giants tonight.
Rhinos will be aiming for a third successive win, but Giants are Leeds’ bogey club, beating them three times last year and, as an ex-Huddersfield, player Mullally is aware how much tonight’s game will mean to the hosts.
They have won only twice this season, but drew at Wigan Warriors last week – ending the champions’ 100 per cent start – and Mullally said: “When I was at Huddersfield they used to say they relished playing Leeds.
“Getting anything at Wigan is a good result and they will be confident after that. It shows they are still a quality team and we won’t be underestimating them, no chance.”
From Leeds’ point of view, Mullally stressed the importance of continuing their recent improved form.
The record defeat at Castleford Tigers has been followed by two of Rhinos’ best performances since their treble-winning season in 2015, and Mullally said: “We have looked at the stats from our last few games, we know where we’ve been going wrong and hopefully we can fix it up this week.
“The key thing for us is momentum – we are trying to we build it. We are happy to keep our heads down and let everyone else do the talking.
“We just want to grind out some tough performances and then we’ll see what happens at the end of the year.
“We are a point off the top of the table, I know we’ve played one game more, but if we do a job at Huddersfield I think we will make a bit of a statement.
“Everyone’s talking about other teams. I think we are quite happy with that. We are happy to go under the radar and quietly build momentum for the later stages.”
Mullally has impressed during the opening quarter of the season, playing in five of Leeds’ six Betfred Super League matches so far.
The Irish international scored his second try of the campaign in last week’s win over another of his former clubs, Wakefield Trinity, and afterwards coach Brian McDermott described it as his best game in Leeds colours.
As far as Mullally is concerned he is “just happy to be in the team” and trying to ensure he keeps his place from week to week.
“I am trying to build some consistency in my game,” he said. “That’s where I am at at the moment, just focusing on the areas I need to work on. I am taking the game time and trying to do my best with it.”
Mullally, 25, began his career with hometown club Widnes Vikings and spent time at Australian giants Brisbane Broncos before spells with Bradford Bulls, Huddersfield and Wakefield.
He joined Rhinos ahead of last season on a three-year contract, but made only 16 appearances in 2016, all as a substitute.
His first start for Leeds was in the win at Leigh Centurions in Rhinos’ second game of this year and he now feels part of things at Headingley after a tough first campaign.
“I feel comfortable now,” he said. “Not comfortable as in complacent, but in how I am playing and the environment I am in.
“I am enjoying it more and that’s helping me improve.”
The target now is to nail down a place in the 17 every week. Mullally added: “It is no good one week scoring tries and people saying you’ve played well, then you let it get to your head and the next week you have a bad game.
“For me it is important to stay focused and just do what I do – train hard, keep my head down and just focus on getting picked.
“That’s what I want to do before I think of anything else.”
Rhinos have had injury woes in the pack this year, but there is competition, with Jordan Baldwinson having stepped up from Kingstone Press Championship duty at Featherstone and recent recruit Jack Ormondroyd catching the eye before suffering knee damage.
Teenager Mikolaj Oledzki has been recalled from loan at Bradford Bulls, so Mullally knows he has to stay on his toes.
“You can’t get complacent,” Mullally insisted.
“You have to do your best each week and hopefully your performance will speak for itself and you’ll stay in the team.
“That’s what I am trying to do at the moment.”
Of McDermott’s comments about his performance last Friday, Mullally said: “It was nice to get on in a period of good-ball.
“We had quite a bit of ball and I think we strangled them into it.
“Normally I come on and do my tough carries at the other end of the field, so I think I was just fortunate that we were on the front foot when I got on.
“I am trying to work on my defence, trying to add in where necessary and just working on the areas I need to improve on.”
Huddersfield Giants: from McGillvary, Cudjoe, Gaskell, Murphy, Brough, Brierley, Rapira, Hinchcliffe, Wakeman, Ferguson, Leeming, Ikahihifo, Roberts, Ta’ai, Clough, Smith, Dickinson, McIntosh, Mellor.
Leeds Rhinos: from Golding, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Parcell, Cuthbertson, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Delaney, Garbutt, Keinhorst, Ferres, Mullally, Walters, Handley, Baldwinson.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.