FORMER LEEDS Rhinos favourite David Furner reckons his old club will take a lot from their Dacia World Club Challenge defeat.
Furner made 52 appearances for Rhinos in 2003 and 2004, hanging up his boots after their first Grand Final win. He is now assistant-coach at Australian champions North Queensland Cowboys, who beat Rhinos 38-4 in last weekend’s World Club Challenge.
Rhinos went toe-to-toe in the first half, going in at the break all square before the visitors got a grip of the game in the final 40 minutes.
It was a spirited effort by a Leeds team missing seven members of their senior squad and with a 21-year-old and 19-year-old partnered at half-back.
“That sort of game will be good for them,” predicted Furner, who was back at Headingley 12 years after his final game there.
“They were playing against Johnathan Thurston, who has won the Golden Boot (as the world’s best player) for the third time.
“He is a player who knows how to slow the game down and those sorts of games are so fast.
“When you have got young halves the game seems so fast, everything’s coming at them and they are making decisions. But I thought in that first half, they weren’t going to budge.
“We got a couple of tries down to a little bit of luck, or the bounce of the ball and we pounced on it, so I think they can take a lot out of it.”
He added: “I know they have lost Danny McGuire and Carl Ablett and Tom Briscoe, but I think they would have been happy with that first half.”
Cowboys pulled away after the interval, when they ran in 34 points without reply.
“There wasn’t many sets we didn’t complete, especially coming out of our end,” Furner observed.
“We put a lot of high balls up, we were patient and just towards the end we started running home with it.
“Maybe the Leeds boys just ran out of fuel, but they will take a lot out of it as a team.
“They had a lot of boys who weren’t involved in that game who would have helped them.”
Furner enjoyed his trip down memory lane. Of his return to Headingley, he said: “Twelve years is a long time, but it was really good.
“We went to a few functions – the first one was a pie and peas night with Carl Ablett for his testimonial and I loved that.
“I love the way the fans get behind their players, especially when they’ve served something like 10 years.
“My memories of it are as a very well-run club, with a lot of good juniors coming through.
“It was a pleasure for me and, more importantly, it was an honour to play for such a good club.
“I really appreciated my time here and the crowd were a part of it too.
“I said to the (Cowboys) players they need to experience what the Leeds fans are like.
“I said you have got to embrace it and really want to play in front of them. I thought they didn’t let them down and the fans were great on Sunday.”