RUGGED PROP Brad Singleton has packed more experiences into just six seasons in Leeds Rhinos’ first-team squad than most players manage in an entire career.
Having been through the highs of last year’s treble success, Singleton is now seeing the other side of the coin as Rhinos occupy bottom spot in First Utility Super League.
It is not a situation he is enjoying, but the former Barrow Island amateur regards it as another valuable step on the learning curve.
“By the end of my career I think I’ll have had every experience,” said Singleton, who has 88 senior games under his belt for Rhinos.
“I am only 23 now and I have seen us win everything and now I am seeing us at the bottom of the league.
“You are learning every day and all I want to do is take little bits from everyone and little experiences and hopefully improve my game.”
Another new box will be ticked tonight when Rhinos travel to Huddersfield Giants for a Ladbrokes Challenge Cup sixth-round tie, exactly a week after losing to the same opposition, on the same ground, in Super League.
It is only the 12th time in the summer era Rhinos have faced the same opposition in successive games and Singleton said: “It is strange, but we’ve just got to do it.
“It’s do or die, with it being the Challenge Cup.
“We have got to dig deep.
“We need to look at what worked right for us last week and hopefully adjust the things that didn’t work and that they got us on and hopefully it should be a good game.
“We have to be switched on from the start, but it has been a good week and hopefully we can finish it off.”
Even with a scratch side, Rhinos pushed Giants all the way in a tense encounter which was not decided until the home team grabbed their fifth try on the final play.
It was the seventh time – out of 10 Super League defeats this season – Leeds have been beaten by fewer than 10 points, which Singleton admitted is both encouraging and frustrating.
“It was a tight game, again,” he said. “We are not going out there and getting absolutely smashed, so hopefully we can look at some little things and get the better of them this week.”
Despite Leeds’ poor run, Singleton feels the pack are playing well.
He said: “It is a tough time, but I think the form of the boys in the middle has been good.
“Keith [Galloway] is turning into what he was over in the NRL, he is showing why we got him, and Mitch Garbutt is playing really well, he’s smashing it up the middle and getting play-the-ball wins.
“Anthony Mullally is going all right as well, but I see myself as a workhorse-type character and Jonesy [Jamie Jones-Buchanan] has got that.
“I am a realist and I know it is tough, because I want to play 60 minutes, but Jonesy is out there smashing it for 60 minutes.
“I think at the moment we have got a bit of momentum in the middle.”
Singleton feels that is true right across the team. He added: “I think we are growing and all the young lads – myself included – are getting better.
“When you take out some senior players, like happened at the end of last year, it does leave a gap.
“It takes a while for us to grow in confidence and communication.”
The Cumbrian forward also feels Leeds’ results will pick up as they get players back from injury, meaning others don’t have to play through the pain barrier.
Zak Hardaker (concussion) and prop Adam Cuthbertson (elbow) were among 10 players unavailable for last week’s game, but are both included in tonight’s initial 19.
Some key men remain on the injured list, but Singleton reckons there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“A lot of the boys have got niggles, but I think they are passing now,” he said.
“Myself included, the last couple of weeks I’ve had niggles with my elbow and my groin.
“But that’s coming to the end now and we’re starting to get people coming back fit.
“We’ve got more at training and more on the paddock and we will get there.
“I think there’s a good game coming for us.”
Tonight would be the ideal time for that to happen as Leeds look to remain on course for a third successive Challenge Cup triumph.
Singleton described the sixth-round tie as “huge”.
And he revealed: “What drives you is memories of Wembley and how good it is, not just for us, but for the city and the fans.
“I was fortunate last year, I played in every game but two, I played in both the finals and I managed to get over for a try at Wembley – a full-lengther it was – so it was a good day.”
Huddersfield Giants from: McGillvary, Cudjoe, Joe Wardle, Murphy, Brough, Crabtree, Hinchcliffe, Lawrence, K Wood, Rapira, Ta’ai, Connor, Johnson, Mason, Roberts, Simpson, Dickinson, S Wood, Brierley.
Leeds Rhinos from: Hardaker, Watkins, Burrow, Galloway, Cuthbertson, Jones-Buchanan, Sutcliffe, Singleton, Garbutt, Keinhorst, Achurch, Mullally, Walters, Handley, Golding, Baldwinson, Lilley, Ferres, L Briscoe.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.