Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers: Skipper Watkins aims to lead by example

Kallum Watkins is tackled by Widnes Vikings' Danny Craven.
Kallum Watkins is tackled by Widnes Vikings' Danny Craven.
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SKIPPER KALLUM Watkins admits he is on a learning curve, but reckons he is getting to grips with being Leeds Rhinos’ on-field leader.

Watkins has a record of four wins from five Betfred Super League games as captain going into tonight’s derby with Castleford Tigers at Elland Road. The 27-year-old centre has also been one of Rhinos’ most impressive players this year and feels the added responsibility is bringing the best out of his game.

Jack Walker is challenged by Luke Gale in the 'Super League Grand Final last year.

Jack Walker is challenged by Luke Gale in the 'Super League Grand Final last year.

“I’m enjoying it – it is a new experience for myself and it’s obviously a big task, but I am just learning game by game,” he said.

“I have got a good group behind me, I’ve got plenty of leaders in the team so I am not alone and that’s really helping me. I am trying to also improve my game as much as possible and set an example. If I can keep doing that and keep improving as a player and performing well and the team keeps performing as well, things can go good this year.”

Rhinos are on the back of an outstanding win at St Helens, but Watkins – who took over the armband after Danny McGuire left the club at the end of last season – insisted: “We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground.” He stressed: “We need to continue to get better and better as a team. For me, it’s about enjoying every experience and if something doesn’t go well, trying to turn it into a positive.

“That’s the big thing for me.”

Tonight is Leeds’ third successive game against last year’s other semi-final teams and, with Easter looming, Watkins reckons it is vital they build on the wins over Hull and Saints.

“It’s a massive, massive game,” he said. “Elland Road is a fantastic stadium and playing against Cas, that has always been a big rivalry, especially over the last couple of years.

“They struggled with their first game, but they’ve won every one since so they will be highly confident they can do the job. For us, we got a great result last week against a very good team and it was our attitude and work ethic that got us through.

“It will give us great confidence, but we know we’ve still got a lot of work to do for sure.”

Watkins insisted: “We want to be better with the ball and we’ll need to be this week.

“Our defence has been really good and that helps you get opportunities, but we have to take them better.

“All our games have been pretty close, but we are finding ways to win which is good for the team and that’s only going to help our confidence, but if we can get better with the ball that will help, definitely.

“Easter is coming up, that’s a massive period and obviously we want to go into it with a lot of confidence and some wins under our belts.”

Tigers won eight successive games against Leeds before Rhinos upset the odds in last year’s Grand Final.

“It has been a long time since we beat them in the league,” Watkins admitted.

“We’re playing at a great stadium, it’ll be a fantastic atmosphere and we’re looking forward to getting out there.

“If we can do a good job and come up with a great performance, hopefully it’ll lead us into a good win.”

Watkins suffered a concussion late in the win at Saints, but is confident he will be fit to play tonight.

“I’m good,” he said. “It was just one of those things.

“I hit my head on the floor, trying to score.

“It was pretty groggy after it and I had to do the concussion protocol and couldn’t get back on.

“I’ve got over it and symptoms-wise, I’m fine.”

Full-back Ashton Golding has also been given the all-clear following a similar injury last week.