LEEDS RHINOS need to put their demons aside when they visit bogey club Widnes Vikings tonight.
Rhinos’ opening Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie sees them travel to a ground where they have not won for four years.
But a return to Wembley is a major objective for the 2014 and 2015 Cup winners and forward Anthony Mullally says they can’t afford to get distracted by their recent poor history at Halton Stadium.
Widnes-born Mullally insisted: “We won’t be dwelling too much on that.
“There’s a few stats and reasons why we might not have done well there, but we are not reading too much into it.
“We’ve got to go there and not let the pitch be a factor.”
Widnes play on an artificial surface, but Rhinos have a similar training facility at their Kirkstall base and Mullally denied it has played a role in past defeats.
“It’s something everyone talks about,” said the front-rower, who was missing through injury when Rhinos lost 23-6 at Widnes in February.
“But when we get out there I don’t think it actually matters.
“When you are out there playing you don’t think about the pitch, it is not on your mind.”
A win tonight would leave Rhinos only two victories away from a 10th Cup final in 20 seasons.
“It would be nice to get there,” said Mullally, who joined Rhinos in 2016.
“I have never been to Wembley so it is a massive goal of mine and a massive goal for the team.
“I will be doing everything I can to get there myself.”
Widnes are third from bottom in Betfred Super League with only three wins from 13 matches, though they thrashed League One side Coventry Bears 90-0 in their previous Challenge Cup tie.
“You can’t underestimate them; they are a good team,” Mullally warned.
“They have turned us over in the past so we need to go there with our A-game.”
Mullally made nine Super League appearances for Widnes six years ago at the start of his career, but has lived in Yorkshire for five years, having played for Huddersfield Giants, Bradford Bulls and Wakefield Trinity before joining Leeds.
“They are no different to any other team for me,” he stressed.
“It is just a normal game.”
Rhinos are entering the Cup, at the sixth-round stage, after a run of disappointing results which has seen them win only three of their last eight games.
Mullally reckons a break from Super League action could be what they need to get their season back on track.
“The Challenge Cup is a new entity,” he said.
“We need to start on a good footing.
“We have been inconsistent this year, but we are working really hard.
“We are doing a lot of good stuff, but things just don’t swing our way at points. That’s not down to fate or anything, we just need to work on closing down games when we get a lead like we did against Wigan, Hull and Warrington.
“We need to work on that, but it is a long year and we are not too far off fourth spot.
“I am still pretty confident we can get in there; it has not crossed my mind we won’t.”
There will be extra workload for Mullally and his fellow front-rowers tonight.
Rhinos’ props have been hit badly by injuries during this campaign and Brad Singleton is the latest casualty after suffering a broken hand in the defeat by Warrington Wolves a week ago.
“Garbs [Mitch Garbutt] has been out nearly all year and so has Nathaniel Peteru and Keith Galloway has retired,” Mullally pointed out.
“We will miss Singo, he is a massive part of what we do, but the young lads – like Mikolaj [Oledzki] – have really benefited from the experience.
“There’s positives as well as negatives.”
Of his own form, Mullally added: “I am enjoying it.
“There was a patch when I wasn’t performing at my best, but the last three or four weeks I have been coming off the bench, which I enjoy.
“That’s my preferred role and my performances are getting up towards last year’s. I just need to keep improving week on week, but I am slowly getting there.”
This is a big season for Mullally whose contract expires at the end of it.
“I’m just seeing what’s going on at the moment,” he said. “If all goes well, hopefully I will be staying at Leeds. I am happy here and, fingers crossed, I should be staying.”