SWITCHING FOCUS to the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup might be what Leeds Rhinos need to refresh their season, full-back Jack Walker believes.
They take on Championship side Leigh Centurions in a quarter-final tie, to be played at Featherstone Rovers’ LD Nutrition Stadium, tomorrow.
Two more wins would send Leeds, who are on a three-game losing run in Betfred Super League, to Wembley for the first time since 2015.
With the defending champions sitting sixth in the league, the Cup may be their best hope of silverware and Walker described the knockout competition as “massive for us”.
He said: “We’re not doing too well in the league, we have got a few things to work on and it’s a chance for us to get a bit of momentum and confidence to build into some of the games in the league. We will be looking to do that.”
Relegated last year, Leigh are sixth in the Championship, but have lost only once – to leaders Toronto Wolfpack last week – in 12 games.
Any team can beat you so we have got to be on our game and be at our best.Jack Walker
They beat Super League Salford Red Devils in the sixth round and Walker insisted nobody in the Rhinos camp is taking tomorrow’s game for granted.
“It is a mental challenge,” he warned.
“Any team can beat you so we have got to be on our game and be at our best.”
Walker, 18, made his Leeds debut in a Challenge Cup fourth-round tie against Doncaster last year.
He was a member of Rhinos’ 2017 Grand Final-winning squad and playing in a team struggling to find form is a new experience.
He said: “I am always learning.
“It is a tough period, but the main thing is we all stick together.
“We will go through it together and come out on top at some point.
“Until then we’ve just got to keep plugging away and keep going.”
Rhinos are playing well in patches and Walker added: “We’ve just got to maintain it.
“Against Catalans we came out and didn’t really do much and they dominated for a good 20 minutes.
“We left too big a gap to get back into the game.
“We went through a patch when we were playing really well, but it was too much to catch back up.
“It is important we get a good start this week, especially because it’s at a different ground.”
With Emerald Headingley unavailable due to Test cricket being staged there, Rhinos opted to move the tie to their dual-registration partner club.
Walker described the loss of home advantage as “another mental challenge”, but predicted: “I think we will do all right.”
The youngster defied a knee injury to play the full 80 minutes of last Saturday’s 33-20 defeat at Catalans Dragons, but said he expects to be available tomorrow.
“My knee was quite sore after the game, but it has settled down,” he said.
“I should be all right for this week.”