Nothing's won in round one - but Leeds Rhinos aiming to get off to a flier against Wakefield Trinity Tom Briscoe says
The long-term view is most important, but winger Tom Briscoe admits Leeds Rhinos’ confidence will be boosted if they can hit the ground running this weekend.
After this Saturday's opponents Wakefield Trinity won at Headingley in 2000, Rhinos were victorious in every opening Super League game until 2016, when Warrington Wolves ended their hot streak and since then Leeds have become notoriously slow starters.
Rhinos have lost their first game of the campaign in four of the last five seasons, including a 30-4 drubbing by Hull at Emerald Headingley 13 months ago and their disrupted pre-season will give Trinity confidence they can inflict more round one misery.
It is a long campaign, with 25 rounds scheduled for the regular season and nothing is won at this time of year, but Briscoe insisted Rhinos “definitely want to get a good start, just for confidence and to go into the season knowing we are there and don’t have too much to work on”.
The former Hull and England man stressed: “Obviously things are going to go wrong and we will get things wrong, but I think we need to just build into the season and not expect too much from that start.”
Trinity finished 10th - second from bottom - in Super League last year and have made only one signing, but Briscoe has been in enough West Yorkshire derbies to know they will come out with all guns blazing in what is officially their home game, despite being played at Leeds.
“You don’t read too much into form with Wakey when they play us,” he warned.
“They always turn up and put in a good performance so we are expecting the best of Wakey. The likes of Dave Fifita and their middles are big, strong guys and we know we need to win that ruck area to have a chance against them; then on the back of that to get our combinations firing and to do our job and what we have been practicing all pre-season.”
Today ends a build-up which began on January 4 and Briscoe reflected: “It has been a good pre-season, I think we’ve got a lot out of it.
“Obviously we have had a few injuries along the way, which has been a bit of a disruption, but I think on the whole everybody has come out of pre-season well and in good physical condition. That’s the main goal, we have just got to make sure we transfer that into the games now.”
Rhinos will line up today without last year’s Super League leading try scorer, Ash Handley, who suffered a knee injury in the warm-up game at Huddersfield Giants two weeks ago.
“He has been one of our best trainers this year, so it’s very unfortunate,” Briscoe said. “He is competitive in everything he does and always brings that to training so for him to get such an injury as such a late stage is gutting for him, but it happens, we have got to deal with it and thankfully it’s only a few weeks and he should be back to running and being involved again.”
Tom’s younger brother, Luke, is expected to fill in this afternoon and teenager Liam Tindall is another wing option in the first team group.
“We have got some good cover in Liam and Luke,” he added. “I am sure whoever gets the nod will do a good job for us.”
Briscoe’s personal battle today will be with Trinity flier Tom Johnstone, who specialises in spectacular touchdowns.
The Leeds man said: “He is obviously a very good player and a very good finisher in any situation.
“We have got to be on guard with him and make sure we get our middles up and trying to limit how much time and space he has on the edge, because when he gets that time and space he can do some good things.”
Johnstone is hoping for an England call up this year, something Briscoe last experienced in 2013.
With a home World Cup at the end of it, this is a big season for every English player, but Briscoe pledged: “I just want to play well for Leeds.
“If that comes on the back of it, that would be great.
“By no means have I put that out of my mind, it’s obviously something that’s a goal and I would love to get back into England, but I am a bit older and have not played for England for a long time now so the most important thing for me is to get my head down and play well for Leeds.
“If anything comes on the back of that, great - but no expectations there.”
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.