Leeds Rhinos riding high on confidence after ‘first-class’ tour, says chief Hetherington

Leeds Rhinos fans in Melbourne. PIC: Brendon Ratnayake/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ
Leeds Rhinos fans in Melbourne. PIC: Brendon Ratnayake/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ
Have your say

CONFIDENCE HAS not been dented by Leeds Rhinos’ World Club Challenge defeat, according to chief executive Gary Hetherington.

Rhinos suffered a 38-4 loss at Melbourne Storm five days ago and have little time to pick themselves up before Sunday’s tough Betfred Super League game at Widnes Vikings.

Leeds Rhinos chief executive, Gary Hetherington.

Leeds Rhinos chief executive, Gary Hetherington.

The majority of Rhinos’ squad arrived back in England on Sunday, with a small group touching down the following day.

The players have been given until tomorrow to recover before beginning preparations for this week’s clash on what has become a bogey ground for the reigning champions.

Leeds’ last three visits to Widnes have ended in defeat – by a combined scoreline of 122-56 – and the hosts will be in confident mood after a stronger-than-expected start to their campaign.

They beat Catalans Dragons in their opening game before narrow defeats by Castleford Tigers and Warrington Wolves.

Leeds Rhinos in Melbourne. PIC: Brendon Ratnayake/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ

Leeds Rhinos in Melbourne. PIC: Brendon Ratnayake/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ

With full-back Jack Walker (knee) and loose-forward Stevie Ward (calf) both having joined Rhinos’ injury list, Widnes will see it as a golden opportunity to return to winning ways.

But Hetherington insisted Leeds’ confidence hasn’t been dented by last weekend’s result and he reckons intense training in warm and dry conditions Down Under will stand Rhinos in good stead for their upcoming matches.

“Our build-up to the game was first class,” Hetherington stated.

“The scoreline suggested a really comfortable victory for Melbourne, but it was a good-quality game and a really good contest as well.

“We competed well and I think we showed we are a quality side.

“I thought it was a good game, a really good game of rugby and we came across a world-class team – probably the best club side there’s ever been.

“We needed them to be a bit off-colour and we needed a few things to go our way and they didn’t.

“All the calls and some of the incidents you hope go your way didn’t, but the scoreline really didn’t reflect the intensity of the game and the quality of the game.”

Melbourne have yet to begin their NRL title defence, but showed few signs of ring rust against a Leeds team with two Super League games already under their belt.

“You have to take your hat off to them, they are an outstanding rugby league team,” Hetherington said of the new world champions.

“They were way ahead of anybody else in the NRL last year and on that form, they look a good bet for this season as well.”

Meanwhile, Hetherington has paid tribute to the several hundred Leeds fans who travelled to Australia.

“It is a fabulous stadium,” he said of Storm’s AAMI Park.

“It was great to see so many Leeds fans there. So many people made the effort to travel to Australia and they made a great contribution to the atmosphere.”