Q. Leeds have won 4 of the last 5 Grand Finals….it’s getting boring isn’t it?
I suppose being successful can mean that you could get into that ‘comfort zone’ and maybe take your eye off the ball so to speak, but I know our lads are as hungry as ever to get to Old Trafford again this year. I know what you mean though regarding getting boring, because spending so much time at Old Trafford recently, fans might assume that we might get to the point of taking our foot off the gas because we are so used to recent success, but that certainly isn’t the case. The more successful we have had, the more inspired we have been to do even better than the year before.
Q. Personally, you had a significant impact in the Elimination Semi Final against Warrington in 2011, as well as having a great game in the Final, but which game was the more special?
I remember being chosen by Warrington in the Play Offs and the feeling surrounding the game was that we didn’t have a chance. We had basically been written off before a ball was even passed. We didn’t have any ‘special’ feelings towards being chosen by Warrington to play at their place, as we just looked at it as another job to complete. They had been top of the league for most of the season, and been very consistent, but we had belief that we could do the job before hand, and knew that if we could get over this hurdle, we would go into the Final with a massive boost. As it was, the game was a real tussle, and I played my part in a great team effort that shocked quite a few people. I don’t think anybody but us expected us to win.
Q. The try in the Final, in my opinion, couldn’t have been scored by any other player on that pitch. It was a typical Rob Burrow try. What was going through your mind when you got your hands on the ball?
Well, we actually had a pre planned play set up on our left and I remember getting the ball at first receiver and immediately noticing a small bit of space between the markers and the first defender from the ruck. Its an unusual feeling and hard to explain at times, but I was sort of on autopilot, where I’m not really thinking about my actions, more like reacting to what I am presented with. I always like to play what I see, and sometimes it is a blur until the final seconds, but once I see a gap like I did in the Final, I want to challenge myself to get through it. The rest is pretty much forgettable really, as it all happens very quickly.
Q. You’ve played a lot from the bench more recently. What is going through your mind when you are awaiting your introduction to the field?
My main focus is to have a positive impact. I would obviously love to be starting the games, but if I am seen at the minute as a player that is more beneficial to the team, coming off the bench, then I’m happy to play my part. I’m a team player, and whether I’m required to go on and change a game, or to settle the team down and back into a game plan, that’s my role, and I’m very happy to be the player with that responsibility. I enjoy running the game and getting my hands on the ball, to create opportunities for others, but I also like to stamp my authority at times and settle things down.
Q. How would you describe yourself as a player?
I’m very committed to my responsibilities on the field and in training and I understand my role within the group and know that I am an important cog in the workings of the team on match day.
Q. So, 2012, are you expecting a similar ride to 2011?
I think there were a lot of factors that played a part in quite an unusual season last time around. We started 2011 with some injuries to important players, and of course this has a major impact on the team dynamic. We were a little bit scratchy early on and were probably guilty of overplaying at times. We are a side that like to throw the ball around and we believe that we have the playing abilities to be able to do that well, but at times last year, things just didn’t click and it took time for that to happen. This season, we are looking at being far more consistent and know that the start is crucial for us. We created history from 5th last year, but we’d prefer not to have to do that again this year, and we know that to place higher at the end of September, we need to be a little more hardnosed early on and get the points on the league table.
Q. Have you look at doing anything differently this preseason as a team?
As I said, I thought we played a little too much with the ball at times in 2011, putting pressure on ourselves, but to be honest, we don’t want to go away from attacking rugby. With that in mind, we’ve worked a lot on our core skills, just simple catch and pass drills to make sure that we are getting the basics right and keeping standard high. If we can maintain a decent level of completion by keeping hold of the ball, then we will put pressure on the opposition rather than ourselves.
I’d like to thank Rob for speaking to me, and giving me his thoughts, and we wish Rob and the Leeds Rhinos the very best for 2012.