A Leeds Rhinos legend, Adrian Morley helped the West Yorkshire club lift the Challenge Cup and win Super League’s Grand Final during his five years as a player. Now coach of the club’s academy, he’s hoping for more Ladbrokes Challenge Cup glory for the first-team in 2017.
Ladbrokes News caught up with ‘Moz’ following the Rhinos’ 58-0 demolition of Featherstone Rovers in their Quarter-Final tie at Headingley. And he had plenty of praise for the job done by his side against their lower-league opponents, telling us:
“You can only play the side in front of you, and while we were expected to win – and win well – I don’t think anyone expected the margin of victory to be as convincing as it was.”
Morley added: “Dominating a game like that bodes very well for the confidence in the camp, and we’re into the last four right now, so it’s very exciting times!”
That victory over The Colliers was the third time Leeds had put lower-tier opposition to the sword at Headingley during this cup run, having previously beaten Barrow Raiders and Doncaster RLFC.
And the 40-year-old was impressed – and relieved – by how the side had handled that trio of assignments.
“It’s harder to prepare, because you don’t have the same access to footage and knowledge of the opposition as you do going into a Super League fixture. And obviously the pressure’s on a side like Leeds. And we have to avoid that potential ‘banana skin.’”
The former Sydney Roosters man admits that “the other sides in the Semi-Finals will still be a bit envious of the run Leeds have had”, but says that “having had some very tough draws in recent years, it’s about time the Rhinos had a kind one in the Challenge Cup.”
With the team currently in third place in Super League, as well as reaching the last four of the Challenge Cup, it’s been a quite amazing turnaround from 2016’s relegation scare.
“Last year was obviously very difficult. Leeds lost three world-class players in the form of Kylie Leuluai, Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock. Obviously that had a huge effect – though there were other things too”, Morley explained.
He continued: “The Rhinos’ training ground got flooded, which was another blow. But still, I don’t think anyone expected them to end up in quite as difficult a position as they did last year.”
But he sees the club’s reliance on young, untested players last term as a blessing in disguise.
“One thing we saw last year was a lot of youngsters being blooded, and now Leeds are reaping the rewards of that. If you’d told anyone at the club 12 months ago that they’d be third in Super League and in the Semi-Finals of the cup at this point, they’d have been delighted!”
However, Morley has his sights set on bigger things, telling us: “Things are ticking along nicely, and there’s no reason the Rhinos can’t pick up a bit of silverware this year!”
Right now, Ladbrokes Challenge Cup glory is the main thing on his mind. And that’s no surprise when you consider what the tournament means to the four-time winner.
Moz explained: “Growing up, I used to love watching the competition, and playing in the Final is such a huge event – especially now it’s at Wembley. The tournament still has that romance and ability to capture that imagination, even when you’ve been in the game for as long as I have.”
“To play in finals for Leeds and Warrington Wolves, and win them – it’s a feeling which is very difficult to describe. It’s a euphoric experience when the final whistle goes and you put your hand in the air as a champion. And it’s something I hope we see Leeds Rhinos’ players doing at Wembley in August.”
So, can Headingley’s class of 2017 lift the trophy?
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