AUSTRALIAN FORWARD Mitch Garbutt insists there is no external pressure on Leeds Rhinos ahead of Friday’s Betfred Super League fixture at Leigh Centurions.
Rhinos were pipped 6-4 at St Helens in their opening game and a second defeat would leave them already playing catch-up in the race for the top-four.
Leeds lost their opening three league matches last year, including a 56-12 drubbing at Widnes Vikings in round two, and players have admitted they need to make a much stronger start this time.
But Garbutt insisted: “Pressure is what you put on yourself. We don’t take anything on board from the outside. We worry about what we can control and we put in every week and prepare the best we can.
“We have had a really good pre-season. I’ve been to a few clubs and I can honestly say it’s one of the best pre-seasons I’ve been involved in.
“A lot of young kids got what they needed to out of pre-season. They improved a lot and we are only going to get better.”
Pre-season culminated in a training camp in North Yorkshire and Garbutt reckons that contributed to the team spirit shown in the defeat at Saints.
“It was one of the most enjoyable camps I’ve been on,” he said. “We weren’t out in the sun, that’s for sure, but we did a lot of physical work – we were out on the farm and hiking and biking.
“It was really enjoyable and it brought us together. We got what we needed to get out of it.”
Only a second-half conversion separated the teams at the Totally Wicked Stadium and Garbutt reckons Rhinos can be satisfied with their effort, particularly in defence.
“There was a dressing room full of disappointed fellas,” he said. “We were a bit scratchy, but it wasn’t a bad performance by any means.
“We were happy with our effort and in defence I thought we were really good. They hung in there and it’s disappointing not to win, because everyone loves to win, but I feel like the performance was reasonably good.
“We have set ourselves a goal of getting back to where we want to be, which is on top and I think from that performance there’s good signs.
“Obviously Saints are going to be there or thereabouts again, they have got a really good side and we matched them. It was disappointing to get the loss, but it wasn’t a disappointing performance.”
Leeds were close to snatching what could have been a winning try in the second half, but Liam Sutcliffe was shoved into touch by a wonder-tackle from Tommy Makinson.
Garbutt said: “It was a good tackle. He’s a good player and he came up with a very important tackle and that sort of won them the game.”
On a personal note, Garbutt said he feels in good shape at the start of his third season with Leeds.
“I got through pre-season unscathed and didn’t miss many sessions, which was the main thing,” he reported. “I got a lot of running into my legs and I feel really good.”