FORMER HEADINGLEY hero Matt Adamson reckons Leeds Rhinos could be on the verge of another great era.
And the Australian forward, who played 72 games for Leeds from 2002-2004, has revealed what he believes was the spur for Rhinos’ incredible run of success over the past decade.
Adamson flew from his home in Australia to join in last week’s Golden Decade celebrations and attend Jamie Peacock’s testimonial match against Bradford Bulls at Headingley.
That was a rare sight of Leeds in action for the ex-second-rower and he said was impressed by what he watched – particularly from teenage full-back Ashton Golding.
“The game over here is still very different to the NRL,” Adamson said of last weekend’s match.
“It is a different style of game, but I enjoyed it [on Sunday] and there’s some real talent there.
“Young Ash Golding, he makes Johnathan Thurston look like an amateur! What a talented kid. I know he looks like him [Thurston], but what a talent.
“I’ve also been impressed by Kallum Watkins.
“I haven’t seen a lot of Super League games since I left, so it was good to sit there and watch him play – and Danny [McGuire] as well.
“He’s brilliant to watch, I love watching him and Kevin’s [Sinfield’s] leadership and experience. I have come across Adam Cuthbertson a fair bit and I think the English game is going to really suit his style of football and he will be a big hit with the fans as well.”
Adamson was invited to the game by Peacock – and admitted it was a strange experience seeing the former Bradford Bulls man being feted by the Rhinos fans and club.
“He is a great warrior,” Adamson said. “But it’s funny because 10 years ago, he hated us! He was physical and he was young and athletic and he really used to get stuck in to us, but it’s a great achievement by him and it was a great honour for me to come back to Headingley and be part of his testimonial game.
“He has not only done it consistently at club level with two clubs, but also at international level, so what a great warrior. It was a great crowd on Sunday and he deserved having that amount of people turn up.”
Adamson’s final season was the year Leeds went from also-rans to champions, though he did not play in the Grand Final win over Bradford. Asked what he felt inspired that year’s success, Adamson said: “I reckon the two players going to jail in 2003 – Chev [Walker] and Ryan [Bailey] – and losing the Challenge Cup and then getting knocked out of the semi-final against Wigan.
“I reckon there was some adversity in those three issues and I reckon that set the club in good stead, knowing we’d had some huge setbacks.
“I’ve never really talked to the two boys about what happened in 2003, but certainly it had an impact on us emotionally to lose two of our mates.
“I think that really destabilised the team that year, not to their fault, it was just one of those things, but I reckon that adversity made us realise you’ve got to really work hard and be united.
“In 2004 we were reunified when the boys got themselves back on track and in the end it was a great success.”
Of his visit to England, Adamson said: “I always like coming back here. I have such a love for the fans and the city itself.
“It was good to come back and show respect to the boys who have played such a big part in the great success the club’s had over the last decade.
“To be part of that was exciting. I haven’t got to spend a lot of time with the boys over the last 10 years, but over the last week I have, which has been good. I caught up with Danny [McGuire] and Franny [Cummins] and Rob [Burrow] and Kev [Sinfield] and all those boys.
“It was a real honour and a great achievement – there’s not too many sporting organisations around the world that can win six Premierships out of 10 years.
“I don’t care whether it’s amateur or professional level, it is a hard thing to do and it’s a great credit to not just the players, but the club and Gary [Hetherington] himself.”
Adamson is now on the staff at NRL club Melbourne Storm. He coached the under-20s last year and has recently been relocated to the Sunshine Coast to work with a feeder organisation the Sunshine Coast Falcons, who play in the Queensland Cup.
“They’ve become our partners and I’ve been put in charge of overseeing the whole operation,” Adamson said.
“That’s the under-16s, 18s and 20s as well as our Intrust Cup team and next year we’ll more than likely have our Melbourne Storm under-20s relocated there as well.
“I’m doing a bit of coaching and a bit of recruitment, looking for the next Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith, which is a pretty big job.
“It has been a tough year for the family – we’ve been in Sydney, Melbourne and Queensland, all in 12 months – but hopefully we can settle there now and I can sink into my new job. I’ve signed a three-year deal with Melbourne Storm and hopefully I can make a fist of it and do really well.”