NEW AUSTRALIAN signing Adam Cuthbertson says he is “surprised” by the skills Leeds Rhinos are showing so early in pre-season.
Cuthbertson made his first appearance for Rhinos in the 50-28 Tetley’s Festive Challenge win over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats a week ago.
Rhinos ran in nine tries, five of them scored by teenage winger Ash Handley and Cuthbertson reckons the signs then and in training are encouraging for their First Utility Super League campaign, which kicks off away to Hull KR on February 8.
Coach Brian McDermott has pledged to sharpen Rhinos’ skills in pre-season and Cuthbertson said: “There was some great rugby played on Boxing Day.
“I was surprised myself. You see it day-in and day-out at training, but it’s good the first time you see it all come together on the pitch.
“Some of the young kids are really exciting and it was great to see the ball go through hands as much as it did.”
Rhinos’ players will return to training next week after a Christmas break, before flying to Florida for their pre-season camp.
Injury victims Joel Moon, Rob Burrow, Kevin Sinfield, Carl Ablett and Brett Delaney are all expected to feature in Jamie Peacock’s testimonial game against Bradford Bulls on January 25, along with England trio Zak Hardaker, Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall.
“The team on Boxing Day was a fair mix,” Cuthbertson said. “We only had a few older players out there and the rest were young boys.
“It was good to get a hit-out for the squad and some experience for the young boys and we can definitely build on it, that’s for sure.”
Cuthbertson – who spent Christmas Day with team-mate Paul Aiton and Wigan Warriors’ Taulima Tautai – said he was satisfied with the first hit-out of his four-year Rhinos contract, but also believes he will improve.
“It wasn’t bad,” said the former Newcastle Knights forward. “I felt a bit unprepared going into the game, maybe nerves or just remembering my gameday routine got the better of me and it was a bit confusing out there at stages, but once we got 10 or so minutes in and the game started to free up a bit, it was fun.
“I was happy for a first hit-out. I was a bit frustrated at points, I was really trying to keep it simple and not offload – just focus on my carries.
“But then the game opened up a bit and it was hard not to. It ended up working well for us and we displayed some good skill.
“I was just happy we did some good work off the back of it.”
Rhinos’ home Super League crowds were down by an average of 513 per match last year – to 14,472 – but Cuthbertson insisted his first taste has whetted his appetite for playing at Headingley Carnegie.
The attendance on Boxing Day was 10,431 and Cuthbertson said: “It was cool. Before the game I didn’t know what to expect. I always knew the crowd were loud, but I didn’t know they’d turn out in the numbers they did. To get 10,000 on Boxing Day is great.”