TEENAGE FORWARD Mikolaj Oledzki reckons having a Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final to look forward to will give Leeds Rhinos’ league campaign a boost.
Rhinos will play Warrington Wolves at Bolton Wanderers’ Macron Stadium on Sunday, August 5.
St Helens will face Catalans Dragons in the other semi-final.
“For the team it’s great,” Oledzki, 19, said after Rhinos secured a 17th Challenge Cup semi-final place in 26 seasons.
“We were a bit unlucky earlier in the season, getting a few close losses and a few upsets, but I think this is going to be a great boost for the team.
“We can build on that. There are good things to look forward to.”
Oledzki has played in 14 of Rhinos’ 18 games this year, starting the last four and is now just one win away from a possible appearance at Wembley.
He admitted: “I didn’t really expect to be involved in so many games this season, but I am grateful for all the opportunities I am getting, all the games and all the game time.
“I am trying to do the best I can for the team and I am absolutely loving my time at the moment.”
He got more time on the field than planned in the 52-22 quarter-final win over Leigh Centurions three days ago.
Rhinos were reduced to 14 fit players inside the opening half an hour, with Carl Ablett, Matt Parcell and Jimmy Keinhorst all picking up an injury.
“I am starting to get more and more minutes,” observed Oledzki.
“I started off doing 10 minute spells at the beginning of the season, now it’s 40 or 50 minutes.
“I feel much better, I don’t mind it – I like to test myself.
“It was a tough night in the middle because we only had one substitute left at the end, but everybody dug deep and we got the result we wanted.”
Leigh got off to a strong start, going 6-0 ahead, but Rhinos took full control following Centurions full-back Peter Mata’utia’s sending-off for a dangerous tackle on Parcell after eight minutes. Leeds ran in seven first-half tries to lead 40-12 at the break and added two more in a scrappy final 40 minutes.
“It was tough, but we expected a tough game,” said Oledzki
“They brought some good rugby with them and challenged us a few times.
“They got over the line a few times so there’s a few things for us to work on, but I think overall it was a good team performance.”
The win was Rhinos’ first since beating Widnes Vikings in the previous Challenge Cup round.
Leeds are on a run of three successive defeats in Betfred Super League, but Oledzki reckons the professional job they did against Leigh will stand them in good stead for Friday’s crucial game at home to Huddersfield Giants.
“After they got the sending-off I thought they stepped it up,” he said of Leigh, who are sixth in the Betfred Championship. They wanted that game, they wanted to win, but I thought we handled it really well.
“At the end it got a bit scrappy, but I think we could have expected that.
“The scoreline was really good for us and we can build on that for this week.”
Some pundits had predicted a Cup shock and Leeds’ first defeat to lower division opposition for more than 30 years.
But Oledzki insisted there was no nervousness in Rhinos’ camp before the game. He said: “We knew if we turned up and everyone did their job well we would get the win.
“We emphasised that everyone has to do their bit and as long as they do it to 90 or 100 per cent we were going to get the win. We had a few parts of the game where we lacked a few things, but I thought we handled it really well at the end.”