LEEDS coach Brian McDermott has predicted emotions will “spill over” at some stage in Friday night’s World Club Challenge.
But McDermott made the statement as part of his rejection of repeated allegations from visiting WCC teams over the last decade that their British rivals resort to niggling and violence in the pre-season showpiece.
In 2010, Manly forwards accused the Rhinos of “nasty tricks” and “shit” and the year before – also against Leeds – Melbourne’s Will Chambers made an on-field accusation that he had been bitten.
“Maybe this Friday night, it’s going to be played at such an intense level where things spill over,” a blunt McDermott told the Herald ahead of the 20,400-sellout clash at Headingley.
“That, you don’t get week-in, week out in either the NRL or the Super League. That’s why those things happen … when you get two teams that want to be crowned world champions at the end of it.
“Look, it’s not a tactic. It’s not on our tip sheet. We don’t focus on any of that. I think most coaches would say that if you’ve got a bloke worried about doing that stuff, he’s not worried about what you’re trying to get him to do.”
Storm halfback Cooper Cronk acknowledged the typecasting surrounding the fixture, when he said at the team hotel during a media opportunity: “The English guys do have a reputation of being a little bit more physical.
“The Australians have a reputation of being a little bit more athletic. What will work better for us, we’ll find out on Friday night. I think we’re capable and confident enough that we can play any brand of football.”
The match, the 13th and perhaps last in a run of consecutive title bouts to be played in the UK, will see 21-year-old second rower Tohu Harris make his first grade debut for Melbourne. A four-week knee injury to Kevin Proctor gives the Hawke’s Bay youngster the chance to hold his spot.
For Leeds, centre Kallum Watkins is likely to have the fullback hotseat in the absence of Zac Hardaker (thumb). Little-known former Gold Coast lower grader Joe Vickery is back almost a month early from ankle ligament damage to assume a wing spot.
Having reclaimed the premiership trophy which was stripped from them in 2010 for salary cap abuse, the Storm now have the opportunity to regain another piece of confiscated silverware,
But coach Craig Bellamy said: “That’s in the past. We don’t worry about that. We just get on with what we need to do now and that’s 2013.”
Back-rower Ryan Hoffman added: “We’ve got a trophy up for grabs … that’s a great yardstick to see how we’re going to go for the 2013 season.”
The WCC received an 11th-hour naming rights sponsor when ProBIZ signed up on Wednesday. The banning of the shoulder charge in the UK has caused an outcry from players, as it did in Australia.
But McDermott said players’ approach to using the tactic had been “if I get it wrong, I’m only going to get two weeks. If the disciplinary (committee) aren’t going to have a deterrent, and scare people away from doing it, then get rid of it.”
The Storm fly home on Saturday to prepare for their season-opener against St George Illawarra.
Teams for the match, which kicks off at Headingley at 7am Saturday (NSW time), are:
LEEDS (squad): Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai, Paul McShane, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Kevin Sinfield (c), Steve Ward, Brett Delaney, Ian Kirke, Chris Clarkson, Mitch Achurch, Richard Moore, Jimmy Keinhorst, Joe Vickery (two to be omitted)
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater, Sisi Waqa, Justin O’Neill, Will Chambers, Mahe Fonua; Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Tohu Harris, Ryan Hoffman, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith (c), Bryan Norrie. Res: Brett Finch, Jason Ryles, Siosaia Vave, Lagi Setu, Kenny Bromwich, Junior Moors (two to be omitted)..
Referee: Ben Thaler
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD