YOUNG STAND-OFF Liam Sutcliffe admits getting back to speed after injury is proving tougher than expected, but insists he will come good.
Sutcliffe found himself lining up for Leeds Rhinos against Australian champions North Queensland Cowboys two days ago, in only his third competitive game following a seven-month lay-off due to a knee reconstruction.
It has been a difficult return, with Leeds losing their opening two First Utility Super League fixtures and going down 38-4 in the Dacia World Club Challenge.
Sutcliffe concedes he is still feeling his way back, but remains confident he will improve with more games under his belt. He said: “I am just taking it week by week.
“I didn’t realise how tough it would be getting into the swing of things. I thought I would click straight away. I have been working hard in training and hopefully, come game days, I can start getting better and better every week.”
He added: “Match fitness-wise I feel I am getting there and that will come to me. Not having played in these types of games for seven months it has been a massive thing. I am just getting used to it again, but hopefully I’ll come good again.
“I thought I would come back where I left off and that has not been the case, but I am confident in my ability. I will get better and, hopefully, I can show people what I can really do.”
Rhinos held North Queensland to 4-4 in the first half on Sunday, before conceding six tries without reply.
“The first half was good, we can take some positives out of that, but obviously it was a very disappointing second half,” Sutcliffe reflected.
“We just couldn’t seem to get a roll on and they ran away with it.
“We were confident going into the second half, we thought we were the better team in the first half and we thought we could have gone on with it, but it wasn’t to be.
“They had a lot more of the ball in the second half. When that happens it tires you out and that’s what they seemed to do to us.”
Super League was put on hold for the World Club Series, but Rhinos will be back to their bread and butter on Saturday when they take on Catalans Dragons in Perpignan.
The French side will have had two weeks’ preparation for what is a vital game for both teams, but Sutcliffe is confident Rhinos will be better for their World Club experience.
“It has been good,” he said. “To play against the best in Australia, that doesn’t come around very often.
“Not many people get to play against them, so it was a good week.
“I have enjoyed it, everything apart from the result, but that’s how it goes.
“We have got to concentrate on Super League now and we’ve got a massive game this week. It is another tough turnaround.
“We will recover from this game and hopefully we’ll go to Catalans and get a win.”
Rhinos are due to fly direct to Perpignan on Friday, returning straight after the match. It is not an ideal fixture after such a big game, but Sutcliffe said: “It is what happens in rugby league, you have a tough game week-in and week-out.
“We will have a good week, hopefully and come Saturday we will be ready to go again. Playing against an Australian team, having a week like this and playing in a big game will hold us in good stead for the future.”
At 21 Sutcliffe has already played in a Challenge Cup final and World Club Challenge. He added: “I just want to be more consistent in these games now.
“Hopefully I can play in a fair few more and get some more wins and medals.
“It is never nice losing a final so, hopefully, we can start winning some games and get into this one [the World Club Challenge] again.
“I would love to do that. We will be working hard again this year. We have been working really hard in training and nothing’s going to change there.
“Hopefully we can kick on and get some silverware at the end of the year.”
Rhinos were without seven players for Sunday’s game, but hooker Beau Falloon could be in contention this weekend and back-rower Jamie Jones-Buchanan is also close to a comeback.
“It’s never nice losing players through injury,” Sutcliffe said.
“Some experienced, big players are out, like Magsy [Danny McGuire] and Abbo [Carl Ablett], but they will be back soon and they will make us a stronger side.
“But, hopefully, in the meantime we can all step up and do a job and get this team on the front foot.
“Every team goes through adversity.
“We are under no illusions it is going to be a tough year, but we are very confident in ourselves and our ability and what we can do.
“There’s always confidence there in the group.”