Leeds Rhinos: World Club Challenge is added to hit list by Kirke

Ian Kirke
Ian Kirke
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LONG-SERVING LEEDS Rhinos prop Ian Kirke has a gap on his honours board he wants to fill.

The front-rower added a Tetley’s Challenge Cup winner’s medal to his five Grand Final triumphs last weekend.

But he has yet to play in a winning team against Australia’s NRL champions and that is an achievement he has now set his sights on.

“I’ve never won the World Club Challenge,” Kirke said. “The teams has, which has been good.

“Being involved with it has been great, but it would be another thing to achieve.

“It’s something I would like to do, but we have to win the Grand Final first.”

Rhinos are chasing another slice of history, by winning the Challenge Cup and Championship in the same season.

“It would be nice to do the double,” Kirke said. “We’ve seen other teams do it, like Wigan last year, but we’ve never done that.

“It would be a great achievement.”

Rhinos are four points adrift of Super League leaders St Helens, who visit Headingley Carnegie in two days’ time.

A third successive league defeat – after losses to relegated teams Bradford Bulls and London Broncos – would end third-placed Leeds’ hopes of

finishing top of the table. And with three other teams – Warrington Wolves, Castleford Tigers and Huddersfield Giants – all level with Leeds on points, the Cup holders could drop as low as sixth on the table this weekend if they lose and other results go against them.

Rhinos returned to training yesterday after their Challenge Cup celebrations and Kirke said facing a top side is the ideal fixture for their first game after Wembley.

“It helps having such a big game on Friday,” said the 33-year-old, who joined Leeds ahead of the 2006 campaign.

“With it being Saints, that’s probably the best thing for us.

“We know we’ve got to concentrate straight away and there’s spots to be earned in the table.

“We don’t know where we are going to finish yet.

“It’s one of the tightest years so far, there’s only a few points between first and sixth, so it’ll be interesting to see where we finish.”

The victory last Saturday has taken some of the pressure off Rhinos, who now hold one of the British game’s two major domestic trophies.

Kirke admitted it is a relief to banish talk of a Cup hoodoo, after the club’s six successive losses in finals.

“I just think we’ve played some decent teams when we’ve got there,” Kirke said.

“The thing about Leeds is, because we’ve been that good for so long, people expect us to win stuff.

“In fact, it is pretty hard. It is one of those things, it is unbelievable to win it and it’s brilliant for the people who go every year and who have supported us through the losses we’ve had.

“I have played in three losses and it is great to be at Wembley, but to lose is devastating.

“For the fans it has been great and it is good for us to get it out of the way, because at the start of every season people ask ‘are we going to win the Challenge Cup this year?’

“But now that is over, the Grand Final is the focus for us.”

Richie Myler kicks ahead at Hull FC.

Latest talking points from the Leeds Rhinos camp