Wigan Warriors v Leeds Rhinos: Why captain Matt Prior is determined to lead from the front
FIT-AGAIN SKIPPER Matt Prior has pledged to lead from the front when Leeds Rhinos visit Wigan Warriors tonight.
Prior’s return from Covid has given Rhinos a huge boost in their battle to qualify for the Betfred Super League play-offs.
The 34-year-old Australian took over Leeds’ captaincy when Luke Gale was demoted a month ago and admitted he would rather show his team-mates what to do than tell them.
“It is definitely a challenging role for me,” Prior said of his new job leading the side.
“I am not the biggest speaker, it probably brings me out of my shell and gets me talking a bit more, but I am more a lead-by-my-actions type of captain.
“I think most of the boys would say that.”
Leeds will need Prior to be on top of his game as Rhinos aim to end an eight-game losing run away to Wgan.
Rhinos’ reigning player of the year, Prior was ever-present in 2021 before testing positive for coronavirus earlier this month.
He missed three matches, but returned to training last week and confirmed he isn’t expecting any after-effects from the illness.
“I tested positive for Covid about three weeks ago,” he said.
“I came into training and got tested and I was pretty surprised, I was the only one to test positive so I was straight into isolation for 10 days.
“When I first tested positive I was a bit poorly, but I was kind of sitting around waiting for it to get worse.
“All the boys who’ve had it said it took a little bit of time and then really hit them after three or four days.
“I was waiting to get sick, but never really got too sick – I didn’t feel too bad.
“I’ve been back training for a week now, I’ve got a few conditioning sessions in and I’m feeling good.”
A victory tonight would lift Rhinos two places to fifth in the table, but defeat could deal a hammer blow to their top-six chances.
Leeds have not won away to Wigan since 2013 and Prior stated: “We have got our work cut out for us for the rest of the year and I think all the boys are up for the challenge.
“This is a huge game, we definitely need to get the win – it is important for us.”
Fourth-placed Wigan were humbled 26-2 at home by fierce rivals St Helens five days ago.
“After a loss, they are going to want to bounce back straight away,” Prior warned.
“Wigan are obviously a good-quality team and it is going to be tough anyway, no matter what the circumstances.
“But we’ve had blokes out all year and I think we’ve played pretty good footy all year, under the circumstances we’ve had with injuries and suspensions and everything else that’s happened.
“Whoever has been put into the team has done an outstanding job and I don’t think that’s going to change [tonight].
“I think everyone’s going to turn up ready to play and I am looking forward to it.”
Prior ended speculation over his future when he signed a new two-year contract last month, extending the deal he signed when he joined Leeds ahead of the 2020 season.
His debut campaign, during the pandemic, was a tough experience, but he stressed: “I am happy at the club.
“Obviously everything’s gone basically back to normal over here, so it’s probably better than at home at the moment.
“We’ve got a bit more freedom over here to do what we like.
“It has been nice to get to enjoy the summer and having shops and restaurants back open has been good.
“I have enjoyed it.
“Footy-wise, we’ve not really been able to get a full-strength team on the pitch and, if we do, it’s not for long, so it has been tough in that regard.
“But, all in all, it has been pretty good.”
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.