THE BIG kick-off has extra importance for Leeds Rhinos hooker Brad Dwyer.
Dwyer is set to make his competitive debut for Leeds in Betfred Super League round one tomorrow – against his former club Warrington Wolves.
That means Dwyer has a point to prove to both sides as Rhinos set off on a long road they hope will lead to a ninth Super League title.
Tipped as one of the game’s brightest prospects when he broke into their first team, Dwyer made 80 appearances for Warrington from 2013-2017.
He played 23 times two years ago – when Warrington topped Super League – and made six starts and 18 appearances off the bench last term.
Even so, he feels Warrington did not see the best of him and admits he would love to show them what he is capable of tomorrow.
“I don’t think I reached my potential for Warrington, if I am honest,” said the Wigan-born 24-year-old.
“That is no-one’s fault. I put that down to myself, but I do feel I have a point to prove, to show that potential and kick the season off in the right way.”
Of facing Warrington, he added: “I am excited and I’m looking forward to it.
“It will be good to get it out of the way. It will be nice to go back, first up.
“It will make something that’s big for me, my debut for Leeds, that bit more special because it is against my old club.
“But that all depends on the result and how I play, really, so we’ll see how that goes first.”
Leeds have lost their last seven Super League games at Halliwell Jones Stadium and will be facing a Warrington side desperate to bounce back after finishing ninth last year.
But Dwyer said: “I genuinely think there’s no easy start.
“I would prefer one of the tougher teams, like this, to make sure we are on the ball. We have got to turn up because we can’t go in under-cooked.
“It is a tough start, especially with the year they had last year. They are going to be looking to get off to a good start, just as we are, so it is massive.
“You can’t under-estimate the start of the season – we want to get off on the front foot.”
Dwyer was among the first group of players to report in for pre-season training in November. Having put in the hard yards through the autumn and winter months, he is now itching to get cracking.
“It has been a long time since we’ve had a massive, competitive game like this,” Dwyer said. “It’s the start of the season and what we’ve been working towards for a couple of months. It is my old club up first so there’s quite a few things, but the main thing for me is I want to impress here. Obviously it’s a new club for me, it’s my proper debut and I am really excited. I can’t wait to get out there.”
Dwyer, who had loan spells at London Broncos and Huddersfield Giants earlier in his career, is already confident joining Leeds was the right move.
“It has been tough with the travelling,” he said. “That’s had a massive effect on my body, but other than that I have settled in perfect with the lads and I am the happiest I have been for a long time.
“That was the main reason for the move really, to freshen me up and get me enjoying my rugby again. I am loving it at the minute.”
Dwyer, fellow Warrington man Richie Myler – signed from Catalans Dragons – and ex-Gold Coast Titans prop Nathaniel Peteru have all been included in Rhinos’ initial 19-man squad for tomorrow.
Prop Mitch Garbutt is also in contention, despite suffering a dead leg in Rhinos’ final pre-season game, away to Featherstone Rovers last Friday.
Forwards Stevie Ward and Brett Ferres have yet to recover from surgery and prop Keith Galloway remains on the casualty list. Dwyer missed last week’s game due to a minor injury, but said he is now fully fit.
“I should have played, but I was a bit tight in my groin,” he said.
“It has settled right down, it has done me a world of good having a couple of days off and I am fit and ready to go now.”