Reigning champions St Helens will not underestimate their Grand Final opponents in Leeds Rhinos says international back-rower Joe Batchelor.
Kristian Woolf’s side look to make history this Saturday at Old Trafford but first must face in-form Rhinos, who have transformed under head coach Rohan Smith.
The playing group at Headingley Stadium have undergone three coaches in 2022, with Richard Agar first stepping down in in March. Jamie Jones-Buchanan took the job on an interim basis, before Smith was appointed head coach in April from North Devils.
And since then, the Rhinos have enjoyed a resurgence under the 41-year-old, going from battling at the bottom of the table to finishing fifth in the league table to secure a play-off spot.
The side defeated Wigan 20-8 in the semi-finals, and Batchelor says his Saints team-mates won’t take their opposition lightly.
Joe Batchelor: ‘It’s going to be a really tough test’
“Leeds have been brilliant and they thoroughly deserve their place in the Grand Final on Saturday,” Batchelor told Love Rugby League.
“It’s going to be a really tough test and we’ve got to be right on top of our game to make sure that we get the win.
“They’ve come on a journey and shown some real signs of improvement and togetherness over the last few weeks.”
St Helens could create history
A win for St Helens would see them lift the Grand Final trophy for the fourth successive year, becoming the first-ever side to do so.
However, Batchelor insists his Saints side must focus on the 80 minutes ahead at the Theatre of Dreams, and not at the bigger picture of history. Leeds will also become their fourth different opponent in the final, having defeated Salford, Wigan and Catalans.
“I think it just shows that each one in itself is unique,” Batchelor said on the previous three Grand Final wins.
“To win one on its own is tough enough and hard enough. We can’t look past Saturday really. We can’t be talking about four in a row and the whole thing until after the game on Saturday night hopefully if we can get the result.
“That’s a conversation to be had then. Until then, we have to concentrate on finishing our season properly and winning it here on Saturday night.
“It’s one of those things that has got to be an afterthought. It’ll be good for the press and the fans to run with that sort of headline and storyline.
“We’re concentrating on winning Saturday and making sure we finish 2022 off as Grand Final winners.”