IT IS “likely” Leeds Rhinos’ World Club Challenge showdown with Melbourne Storm will be staged in Australia, chief executive Gary Hetherington says.
Rhinos have arranged to play at Leeds United’s Elland Road on February 24 or 25, but opponents Melbourne Storm have announced a pre-season game against their Grand Final victims North Queensland Cowboys in Brisbane that weekend.
Hetherington was last week confident the fixture would take place, but now admits it is “clouded in uncertainty”. He said: “I am waiting for an update, but the likelihood is we will be heading to Australia.
“Super League are talking to Melbourne and the NRL. It is not our game, we are simply waiting for the information from Super League following their discussions.”
Meanwhile, Hetherington says he is “pleased” at the growing relationship between Rhinos and Leeds United. Members of Rhinos’ Grand Final-winning side paraded the Betfred Super League trophy at Elland Road on Saturday when United played Reading.
The whole squad were invited, but the majority of the team are now away either on international duty or holiday and Hetherington said: “We were really pleased to accept the invitation.
“We are grateful to Leeds United and we are developing a really good relationship with them.”
Hetherington revealed the clubs are sharing ideas in a number of areas.
“We had a delegation at Elland Road last week,” he said.
“Paul Caddick [Rhinos’ chairman] and [commercial director] Rob Oates were there, along with Yorkshire County Cricket Club and Headingley Experience.
“We were looking at their recently refurbished facilities, to give us some ideas about what we are going to be doing with the new facilities at Headingley.
“Leeds United have been really helpful in quite a number of ways and our respective foundations are already meeting on a fairly regular basis.
“Bob Bowman – from our foundation – and Leeds United Foundation’s Alan Schofield have been in dialogue looking at ways we can work together and help each other and we are really pleased about that.”
Rhinos have also visited other stadiums, including Liverpool’s Anfield, as they plan for Headingley’s new look. The South Stand has now been removed and demolition of the all-seater North Stand, shared with Yorkshire, is underway.
Hetherington said: “Until February, Headingley is effectively a building site. We will not be playing any home games in pre-season and the capacity when the season begins will be a maximum of 12,500, though it is a moving feast and that could change.”
Hetherington said Adam Cuthbertson is expected to be fit for the start of next season after undergoing surgery last week.
“He should have been back in Australia now, but he got injured in the Grand Final and needed surgery,” said the Rhinos chief. “He injured an ankle, but it is primarily his knee ligaments that required surgery and that has delayed him by a couple of weeks.
“Stevie Ward has also had an operation, on his shoulder, but we are relatively injury-free and in a pretty good place, fitness-wise, compared to the end of most seasons.”
Rhinos’ Jimmy Keinhorst was among the try scorers for Germany in a 38-34 win over Wales Dragonhearts in Cardiff.
Former Rhinos player Ben White crossed twice and the German team also included Keinhorst’s brother Nick, of Leeds Akkies.
Rhinos’ Ashton Golden touched down for Jamaica in a 34-12 defeat by France in Perpignan.