LEEDS RHINOS need to put pressure and criticism to one side and just go out and play.
That’s how winger Ryan Hall sees tonight’s visit of Catalans Dragons, which begins a run of matches that could shape the future of the club and team.
Rhinos are on the back of a record 66-10 defeat at Castleford Tigers eight days ago and have been given until the end of this month to turn things around.
Chief executive Gary Hetherington has indicated – in a letter to fans – that he will make a judgement about on-and off-field performances after the next four games.
Brian McDermott, Rhinos’ coach, says he was made aware of the letter before it was sent and is “cool” with the contents, but admits tonight is a “big game” for his side.
Hall, though, has shrugged off the pressure and insists the priority tonight is getting back to playing well.
“I think we experienced last year how tough things can get,” the England man said. “We’re not really bothered about that sort of thing [pressure]. It is a game at the end of the day.
“If you go in feeling under pressure you are not going to give a proper account of yourself.
“You have to go in positive and put your front foot forward and that is what we are going to do.
“We are very positive about this week.
“Things in sport happen and sometimes it’s bad, like last Thursday.
“But that’s part of the industry we are in, you have got to perform week-in and week-out. This week I’m really glad we are at Headingley and we will be trying to put things right.”
Hall reckons Rhinos are capable of putting together a string of wins which would transform their campaign.
“We had a great pre-season and we’ve won two games out of four this year already,” he said. “We’ve got to draw on the good experience we’ve had in the league so far this year.
“If you look at the league table now, you will see Warrington – last year’s Grand Finalists – are bottom of the table without a win.
“But bizarrely, they played one of the games of the season already – against Brisbane in the World Club Series – and they were very impressive in that.
“That’s how tight the competition is this year, you can be such a good team and still not have won a game.
“The competition is very tight this year so if you lose the way we did last week it does make the next few weeks very important, because you have got to shake that off and you don’t want to carry that with you.”
Unbeaten Catalans have made an impressive start with wins over Warrington and Hull and a draw at home to Widnes Vikings last week.
Their 19-man squad includes former Rhinos Jodie Broughton, Luke Burgess and Paul Aiton.
Hall said that makes the visitors extra-dangerous, but could also help to bring the best out of Leeds.
“That’s how rugby is,” Hall said.
“I have got friends in every team now. When you play every week you know at least one or two of the opposition players quite well.
“It is always good playing against friends. It will be the first time we’ve played against Paulie since he left and it will be good to get to see him again.”