HE HAS seen and done almost everything in a 19-year career, but tomorrow will be a new experience for Leeds Rhinos’ veteran forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
Rhinos visit Widnes Vikings just nine days on from facing NRL champions Melbourne Storm in the World Club Challenge and less than a week after Jones-Buchanan arrived back in Leeds following seven days in Australia.
He was one of the final players to return to the UK, touching down in England on Monday, 24 hours after most of his team-mates.
He immediately switched roles to star in Red Ladder Theatre Company’s production of the Eddie Waring-themed show Playing the Joker, but insisted he and his team-mates will be ready to go when the first whistle blows tomorrow.
The travel, last week’s heavy defeat and injuries to some key players mean Rhinos have some ready-made excuses ahead of tomorrow’s game, but Jones-Buchanan insisted Leeds can get the job done – if their attitude is right.
The players were given until Thursday off to recover from their week Down Under and Jones-Buchanan said: “Everybody’s feeling good.
“It is good to be back in the routine.
“It takes a bit out of you over there, but everybody has trained well and we are looking forward to Widnes.”
Widnes away probably isn’t the fixture Rhinos would choose in the circumstances.
They have not won there since 2014 and Jones-Buchanan admitted: “It will be a tough game.
“We’ve had a few losses there and we’ve lost heavily. We have played them early on in the year and some of their performances have been really good.
“We are down a couple of bodies, which is a bit disruptive, but we have got to disregard that. It is going to come down to mentality.
“We have got to treat every game like it really matters, like it is a semi-final. Every two points is important.
“Widnes are a strong side and they have put us to the sword in recent years. Last year we lost to the team at the bottom of the league three times. Sometimes that’s an attitudinal thing – our attitude needs to be really good.”
Jones-Buchanan reckons the same applies to coping with jetlag. Rhinos’ players spent 22 hours in the air last weekend and the journey home took more than 30 hours.
“It’s all about mentality, you have to be ready to go and jump into whatever you need to do,” said the 36-year-old pack man.
“When I got back I went straight to rehearsals. It wasn’t ideal, but it needed to be done.
“It’s all about mentality and that’s something Mac [coach Brian McDermott] drills into us.
“I don’t mind it [jetlag] because it means I am getting up early and going to bed early and I think that’s a great cycle to be in for a professional sportsman.”
Full-back Jack Walker, prop Adam Cuthbertson and loose-forward Stevie Ward were all injured in Melbourne and joined an already lengthy casualty list. Walker’s absence will mean a first opportunity of the season for Yorkshire Evening Post Shooting Star Ashton Golding.
“He has played a lot of rugby and got a lot of games under his belt,” Jones-Buchanan said of his fellow Stanningley product.
“He would be playing most weeks for most teams, but we have got two fantastic full-backs and there’s competition for that spot. He has got his chance now and I’m sure he will take it.”
Rhinos will be aiming for a third successive Betfred Super League win after victories over Warrington Wolves and Hull KR. Jones-Buchanan insisted the loss in Australia has not affected their confidence.
“I don’t think we need to bounce back,” he stressed.
“Sometimes you have to hold your hand up and say the best team won.
“Melbourne were fantastic. I was looking at the team that beat them 10 years ago and it included people like Keith Senior, JP [Jamie Peacock], Kev [Sinfield] and Brent Webb.
“We will have that calibre of players in this team in the years to come, but it takes time and experience. Like Mac said last week, if we were to play games like that on a weekly basis it would not be long before we were up to speed with it.
“There’s a lot of potential in this team and we are not a million miles off. Last week will put us in great stead for the rest of the season, it was a great platform.”