By STEVE MASCORD
WHILE Manly treat tomorrow night’s World Club Challenge as “a reward”, match-eve revelations make it clear why Leeds players are approaching the Headingley clash like a Wembley cup final.
After the fired-up Sea Eagles won a brutal encounter with the Rhinos three years ago, they returned to a controversial season launch, the Brett Stewart imbroglio which forced the NRL to scrap its television advertising campaign and a wedge driven between the club and officialdom.
But players on this year’s trip under new coach Geoff Toovey report a”relaxed” build-up with “bonding” a feature.
conversely, it has been revealed that Rhinos players won’t just get all the prizemoney on offer if they win – they’ll get up to twice the stg25,000 booty under a formula which would contravene NRL salary cap regulations.
The winners purse was halved from stg50’000 as a result of St George Illawarra’s hard bargaining in 2011 but Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington told the Herald “Our players earn a set fee – but only if they win – and that won’t change.”
in other words, Leeds will dig into their own coffers to reward players for shooting down the Eagles. NRL sides are only allowed to pass on half of existing prizemoney to players.
“You can’t compare this to a Super League game at all. It’s a grand final, it’s a Challenge Cup Final,” said halfback Rob Burrow, knocked out in the previous clash.
“…and that’s the way we’re taking it.”
Explaining the Sea Eagles’ calmer approach after a summer of upheaval, Toovey said: “I’ve told the players to enjoy this trip over here – they deserve it.
“They were the best team in the competition last year – the NRL – and they’re over here as a reward and to show they can match it with the world’s best teams.”
Centre Ben Farrar, named on a seven-man bench and unlikely to play, reported: “It’s been a real team bonding thing as well. Travelling away with 19 or 20 of us and the staff as well, it’s been really good. it’s been relaxing.”
In Manly’s side are winger David Williams, back from neck and foot injuries for his first game since August, and prop Jason King, who also missed the grand final through injury.
Leeds – who named 19 men – recall Ben Jones-Bishop to the wing.
rhinos coach Brian McDermott said of the fixture: “I think it means a bit more to the Super League teams than it does to the NRL teams, if I’m brutally honest.”
Toovey and McDermott each met with referee Ashley Klein – for 10 minutes each – on Tuesday.
“Brian asked Ashley what he could expect from the rucks and Ashley said ‘when I call ‘move’, I expect movement,” said referees director Stuart Cummings.
“And that’s about it.”
A 22,000 sellout is expected with mild conditions this week allaying fears the match may have had to be switched to Huddersfield’s McAlpine Stadium
Teams for the match, which kicks off at 7am Saturday (NSW time) at Headingley, are:
LEEDS: Brent Webb; Ben Jones-Bishop, Kallum Watkins, Zac Hardaker, Ryan Hall; Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow; Kevin Sinfield (c), Carl Ablett, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Jamie Peacock, Paul McShane, Kylie Leuluai. res: Brett Delaney, Ryan Bailey, Ian Kirke, Chris Clarkson, Weller Hauraki, Darrell Griffin (two to be omitted).
MANLY: Brett Stewart; David Williams, Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai, Michael Oldfield; Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans; Glenn Stewart, Tony Williams, Anthony Watmough, Brent Kite, Matt Ballin, Jason King. Res: Jamie Buhrer, Vic Mauro, Darcy Lussick, George Rose, Joe Galuvao, Ben Farrar, Dean Whare (three to be omitted)
Referee: Ashley Klein
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
By STEVE MASCORD