NOBODY ELSE thought they could do it, but Adam Cuthbertson insists Leeds Rhinos believed “from day dot” they would be walking out at Old Trafford on October 7.
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Rhinos – who take on Castleford Tigers in two days’ time – were nearer relegation than the Super League Grand Final last year, but have bounced back by finishing second in the table and qualifying for the club’s 10th title decider.
Old Trafford is a far cry from Post Office Road and Ealing Trailfinders, grounds Rhinos visited in the 2016 Qualifiers, but Cuthbertson said it has been the goal from the start of pre-season training.
“Personally – and for this team – after the year we had last year all we wanted to do was get back to our winning ways and be competing at the end of the year to be Super League winners,” he said.
“We believed that from day dot when we got back into pre-season. Everyone getting away at the end of the season and doing their own thing with their families was what we needed after last year. We came back fresh and when we went on our first camp we nailed it on the head with what we wanted to achieve this year, which was to get back to Old Trafford.”
I have been with a losing Grand Final side before – for Manly in 2007 against Melbourne – and it does not feel like you have achieved anything.Adam Cuthbertson
But just being in the Grand Final is not enough. The Aussie forward added: “Some fans might think getting there is an achievement, but not myself.
“I have been with a losing Grand Final side before – for Manly in 2007 against Melbourne – and it does not feel like you have achieved anything.
“I remember that feeling and I don’t want to ever feel it again – it spurs me on to this day really. The goal is to win this game. That is all we are thinking about.”
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Cuthbertson reckons Rhinos are going into the title-decider in their best form of the season. He observed: “We have been gradually building each week and getting better and better.
“I think we have really started hitting our straps these last six weeks or so, which is obviously perfect timing.
“That has given us some real confidence.”
Castleford Tigers have beaten Rhinos four times over this year and Cuthbertson admitted Leeds have got their gameplan wrong in previous meetings.
He said: “We’ve put a lot of thought into it this week and the last couple of weeks, in terms of creating momentum on the field and our game plan on the field.
“And I think we’ve got it right.
“We came out in the second half at Castleford [last month] with a plan and we started executing it.
“And we have been going decent ever since.”
Rhinos will have to play well themselves, but also stop Tigers getting into gear – which means keeping a close watch on full-back Zak Hardaker, who was a three-time Grand Final winner with Leeds.
“They are strong across the park and they play like a team,” Cuthbertson said.
“But Zak is quite key to the way they start their sets and that’s what makes them dangerous.
“If we can keep him quiet and limit him at the beginning of their sets that’ll be massive for us.
“Obviously there’s also Galey [Luke Gale] and what we do on the back of his kicks and the way we protect our back-three.”