Leeds Rhinos: Easter glut of games is no big deal for players – McGuire

Rob Burrow tackled by Lance Hohaia.
Rob Burrow tackled by Lance Hohaia.
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Rhinos star Danny McGuire has his say on all things rugby league

SOME PLAYERS hate the Easter period, but I don’t mind it.

It’s a fair bet that by the time you read this I’ll be feeling pretty sore and battered, just like everyone else who played last night.

And the thought of playing again in three days’ time and then another match a week tomorrow is a bit daunting, but that’s the way it is and always has been and I don’t think, as professional players, we should complain too much.

At this time of year it is more about matches than training and everybody says they’d rather play than train.

I had a week off last week. I had a bit of a niggle, but could have played against Wakefield if necessary, though there’s no point risking anybody when we’ve got other players who are fully fit and can come in and do a good job.

So I am feeling fresh and actually looking forward to Easter, which I think is a challenge.

It is a bit like the old saying about ‘when the going gets tough’ – it is a time in the season that tests players individually and squads as a unit and it’s probably when the real contenders begin to emerge.

The third game is often the hardest and I suppose a televised Challenge Cup tie against a quality side like St Helens is not ideal, but it’s the same for both teams and we just have to get on with it.

We played last night so that will give us a slight advantage over Monday’s opponents Salford, who are in action tonight, so we need to make the most of that.

At times people have said it is not the right thing and there is a danger of player burn-out. I can understand that, but I think it is good for rugby league.

It is tradition to play two games over the Easter period, it gets a lot of coverage and it’s a time of year when fans can get along to games and enjoy the action.

I like the challenge of being able to back up for a run of matches in a short space of time and it’s also a good test of coaching staff to see how they manage their squad and if they can get the most out of it.

We have got two tough games in Super League, it is an interesting and important time in the schedule and it’s the good squads who will come through it the strongest.

We won’t be able to do much specific preparation for Salford on Monday, so it is just a matter of recovery after last night.

Most players probably won’t have slept well last night. After a game you are high on adrenalin and it does take a while to come back down to reality.

I’m not too bad, I find it quite easy to get to sleep after a game, but then you wake up the next day and the bumps and bruises start to appear.

That becomes the norm over the years and if you don’t feel the pain the morning afterwards it is a bit strange. Your body adapts and there are ways of getting over it.

We will be having a swim and a massage and as I often say in this column, we have got great physio and conditioning staff at Leeds who really look after us. They always have the players’ best interests at heart and that’s the great thing about the club. We will do everything right in preparation.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to play alongside legend Rob Burrow

Every week in this column I seem to be paying tribute to somebody in the squad who has achieved a landmark number of games or tries.

Rob Burrow is the latest, with his 400th match for Leeds. That is a huge achievement in this day and age.

In sport, loyalty to one club is unheard of a lot of the time, but I think Leeds are an exception.

Ten of the current squad have more than 200 games for Rhinos under their belt and I think the number of players who want to play their full career here reflects well on the club and on how they look after the players.

I am really pleased for Rob, who would be the first to admit he was written off when he was 16 because of his size, or lack of it.

He has had a lot of obstacles to overcome and he has got past all of them in a career which makes him a Leeds and Super League legend.

The way he has handled himself on and off the field shows what a great character he is, as well as an outstanding player.

I think his durability is his great strength.

Touch wood, he is very rarely injured and that’s great credit to his toughness and fitness, considering how big some of the modern-day players are and the physical nature of the game now. Rob gets targeted because of his height, but he doesn’t take a backward step.

And, pound for pound, there can’t be many better defenders in the game.

And everyone knows the chaos he can cause when he runs at a defence.

I have played a lot of rugby with Rob, starting as opponents when we were in the under-10s.

We played together for Yorkshire from 13 and he signed at Leeds only about six months after me, so we go back almost 20 years. We were lucky to be part of a very successful academy side together and we’ve gone on and played in some big matches at first-team level.

He has played a very big part in the success the club has enjoyed over the last decade or so and he really loves the place. I think everyone at the club should be grateful he decided to become a Rhinos fan, rather than support his hometown club Castleford.

Off the field Rob is a real character. He has always got time for a chat with people and in and around the squad he is one of the jokers who likes to keep everyone laughing.

It has been a real pleasure to play alongside him.

We don’t want to be red-faced

salford will be a big challenge for us on Monday. They made a bold statement at the start of the year and the fact they’ve had a change of coach so early in the season shows their owner is not going to stand for poor results.

When you bring a new team together it takes time. It isn’t easy to gel as a unit and sometimes you experience a few bad days before you find a formula that works. Looking at it from the outside, I think they were a bit hasty to get rid of Brian Noble (pictured). As coach he probably needed at least half a season to work on relationships and build understanding in the team.

We all know that results are what matters in sport and the owner has put a lot of money in, so he is going to want to see a return on his investment. But I think sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture and be a little patient. There’s been lot of cases of coaches being under pressure and then bringing success when the club showed faith in them.

Whether Salford did the right thing remains to be seen, but we do expect a tough game next week.

Kallum Watkins. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

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