THE WAY they have coped with a mounting injury crisis has highlighted the spirit in Leeds Rhinos’ side, according to second-rower Carl Ablett.
Rhinos have won the Challenge Cup and league leaders’ shield and reached the Super League Grand Final, despite long-term injuries to Liam Sutcliffe, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Paul Aiton.
Stevie Ward will miss Saturday’s title decider after being told he needs a knee reconstruction, Mitch Achurch is also on the casualty list and
Ablett, Kallum Watkins and Brett Delaney all collected knocks during last Friday’s semi-final win over St Helens.
“We have got some injuries now, but we’ve had injuries all year,” Ablett said.
“We’ve been missing some key players and it just shows the spirit we’ve got and the will to win.
“For the majority of the year we’ve had no No 9, no back-rowers and we’ve had people dropping like flies. It shows the character in the team and whatever 17 goes on the field on Saturday will be ready.”
Ablett, Rhinos’ only ever-present this season, described it as “an emotional rollercoaster of a year”.
He added: “We have been consistent throughout the year, then had a bit of a dip.
“From where we were three weeks ago, to get to a Grand Final on the back of a league leaders’ win is very pleasing. There’s not been much between the top teams and little things can pay dividends in a game.
“The RFL wanted every minute to matter and it has. We are just finding ways to win at the moment.
“We have got some special people who can find special things in games to get us a victory. Now we’ve just got 80 minutes to pull something out of the hat and win another Grand Final. There’s a big challenge in front of us, against a Wigan team who are going to be fired up and are going well.
“We have to prepare well now and focus on recovering and getting ready for Saturday.”
According to Ablett, how Rhinos recover from last Friday’s 20-13 win will be crucial to their hopes of completing a clean-sweep of trophies. He said: “There was a good intensity to that match, it was a genuine play-offs semi.
“Playing against Wigan we know it will be intense, so we need to recover well. Credit to Wigan, they did what they had to do and they put some points on a good Huddersfield team and they will be happy with the way they played.
“But going into a Grand Final you want intense games. They are great preparation. We are definitely battle-hardened. Whether that will help us this week, who knows?
“But we have definitely played at an intense level.”