AUSTRALIAN RECRUIT Mitch Garbutt has enjoyed a flying start to his Leeds Rhinos career, but has one regret.
Tonight’s First Utility Super League semi-final against St Helens will be only Garbutt’s 13th game for Leeds and he has already enjoyed more success than many players do in a career, but he admits he would have liked more game time with Rhinos’ trio of departing legends.
“It has been crazy for me, I have enjoyed every second of it,” said the former Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos front-rower, who played in Rhinos’ Challenge Cup final triumph and last week’s win at Huddersfield Giants which clinched the League Leaders’ shield.
“I am very lucky to have come over and played with such great players, but I wish I’d had more years with Kev [Sinfield], JP [Jamie Peacock] and Kylie [Leuluai].
“That is one thing I am disappointed about, I won’t get to play with them as much as I’d have liked.”
Props Peacock and Leuluai will make their final home appearance tonight, along with Rhinos’ record-breaking captain. With two of the most successful front-rowers in the club’s history on their way out, there will be added responsibility on Garbutt next year.
“This is probably the most I have enjoyed my footy,” he said of his three months in England.
“The last two weeks I thought I was a bit behind the eight-ball, but I think I am playing all right without setting the world alight. I am always looking to improve and try and do the little things right.
“I am just concentrating on this season, I just want us to play the best we can and we’ll deal with next season when it comes.”
Rhinos ended a run of three straight defeats with their last-gasp victory at Huddersfield seven weeks ago and Garbutt feels they are back on track after a shaky spell.
“We had a few disappointing weeks where we struggled for a bit of consistency and form, but I think we are really happy with our defence from last week,” he said. “We did the little things right, which we probably didn’t do the weeks leading into that. All in all, we were happy with last week’s win and we have got to build on that now.
“With defence it is always an attitude. You go into the game with a goal in mind and I think we stuck to that really well. We defended really well, I thought and everybody turned up for each other. With big games, you have to prepare well. This is going to be a tough old game and we know what we are in for.
“Saints have got some world class players and I think we have got to do the little things right and if so, hopefully we’ll come away with a victory on the night.”
Rhinos are on course for the treble after picking up the two trophies on offer so far this year. Their Challenge Cup final win at the end of August was followed by a home loss to St Helens and then two more defeats, by Catalans Dragons and Castleford Tigers, but Garbutt is confident last Friday’s high will not have a similarly damaging effect. “We are fully focused,” he insisted. “We have got goals we want to achieve, we had a few disappointing weeks, but we are focused for every game.”
Rhinos are two wins away from the first clean-sweep in the club’s history. This year is only the second time they have completed a Challenge Cup-League Leaders double and Grand Final victory would make it Leeds’ most successful season.
But Garbutt stressed the most important game is the next one. He said: “We haven’t really looked past this week. We are very excited about what could happen, but if we don’t perform this week it won’t happen. We are focused on playing well against Saints. We want to be a successful team and we want to get to the Grand Final. That’s the goal we’ve got, but if we don’t play well, it’s going to be a sad old day. We will just focus on St Helens and if we don’t perform, there’s no next week. We have to be good, because they can make you pay from anywhere on the field. Luke Walsh is playing some good footy, he’s a quality player and their forward pack is unbelievable. They are a good team all over the pitch.”