LEEDS RHINOS can’t afford to focus on the league table or games coming up after tonight.
That is the warning from Aussie forward Mitch Garbutt ahead of crucial back-to-back visits to Huddersfield Giants.
Rhinos travel to the John Smith’s Stadium tonight for a showdown between the teams 12th and 10th in First Utility Super League.
And they will be back there exactly a week later in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup sixth round.
It is the 12th occasion in the Super League era Rhinos have faced a team twice in successive matches, but the first time both games have been on the same ground.
A win tonight would maintain Rhinos’ hopes of securing a place in the Super-8s, while next week sees them begin their bid for a third successive Challenge Cup title.
Both are matches last year’s treble winners can’t afford to lose, but Garbutt insisted they aren’t putting any extra pressure on themselves.
“We will just take it week by week and prepare for each one as best we can,” Garbutt said.
“I think any game at the moment is a must-win game.
“There’s still a fair few games left and we will be trying to pick up as many wins as we can and trying to improve every week.
“I haven’t looked at the table, we are just taking each game as it comes.
“We don’t really look any further than the next game.”
Rhinos’ performances have improved over the past two weeks and Garbutt stressed their main focus is on continuing that trend.
“If we set those little goals every week as to what we want to improve on, hopefully we can nail those come the weekend,” he said.
“Then we will see where we are after that. I think we are moving in the right direction, but we are still a fair way off where we want to be. We are training really well during the week and we are doing everything we can. We are trying our best and we are busting a gut every week.”
Garbutt felt Rhinos’ performance at St Helens last week highlighted how much effort they are putting in.
After trailing 10-0 early on, Leeds hit back to lead twice and then battled back from two more 10-point deficits in the second half.
That was despite losing four players to injury, which meant they were unable to make any changes in the final half an hour.
“We were down to 13 men by the end of the game,” Garbutt said. “But that’s rugby league.
“I think everyone will face that during the year, where there’s injuries during a game.
“You can’t help that, you have just got to get on with it.
“When it happens you have to deal with it, there’s no point worrying about it when you are out there.
“It is just one of those things and you just keep moving forward.”
The situation now is completely different to almost a year ago, when Garbutt joined Leeds Rhinos from Brisbane Broncos.
He came into a club who were top of the league and on course for a return to Wembley in the Challenge Cup, but insisted Leeds’ current plight is just a new challenge.
“It is obviously a bit different,” he said.
“But I am still enjoying my footy. We are still training really well and there’s still a great bunch of people here.
“That’s all you can do. I think the playing group is a happy group, we are all good mates and we are all trying our best for each other.
“Sometimes it hasn’t come off for us, but we will keep trying to improve and that’s all we can do.”
Garbutt said he is “100 per cent” confident in the team and the players around him.
He added: “There’s never been any doubt about the players we’ve got here.
“We have got a very talented squad and I think if you speak to most teams they would say we have still got a very talented squad.
“Things haven’t happened, for us, but they will.
“We are still working hard and that’s all we can do.”
Six of Leeds’ nine Super League defeats have been by four points or fewer, which suggests they are not far off putting things right and stringing a run of positive results together.
“It is always disappointing not to get the win,” Garbutt said. “But we are just trying to improve and hopefully we will come away with more wins than losses.
“Huddersfield are in a similar situation to us. They are not playing bad, but they’re not getting the wins.
“I am excited for a big game there. They have got some great players and there’s no doubt they are a talented squad too.
“They get led around the park really well. We are expecting a very tough game, we are preparing for that and we are looking forward to it.”
Huddersfield Giants from: McGillvary, Cudjoe, Joe Wardle, Murphy, Brough, Crabtree, Hinchcliffe, Lawrence, Wood, Rapira, Ta’ai, Connor, Johnson, Mason, Roberts, Dickinson, Jake Wardle, Brierley, Ormsby.
Leeds Rhinos from: L Briscoe, Watkins, Smith, Burrow, Galloway, Jones-Buchanan, Sutcliffe, Delaney, Singleton, Garbutt, Keinhorst, Achurch, Mullally, Walters, Handley, Golding, Baldwinson, Lilley, Ferres.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.