Leeds Rhinos PDRL Player-Coach Dan Roberts says his side are raring to go in the first festival of the year this Saturday as the 2022 PDRL League gets underway at Eastmoor Dragons ARLFC.
The Rhinos will open up their new campaign against old foes Castleford Tigers, before taking on a Bradford Bulls team making their PDRL debut in what promises to be a fantastic festival of disability rugby league with all six of the competition’s sides in attendance.
After a long off-season which included a visit from Leeds Rhinos first-team players Brad Dwyer and Jack Broadbent at training, Roberts is excited to see his side back in action and is pleased with how preparations have gone in the build up to this weekend’s season opener.
“The lads are all buzzing to be playing again this weekend because it feels like a long time since we last played in September and we’ve had a really positive pre-season which stands us in good stead this weekend,” said Roberts.
“We’ve had decent numbers coming down throughout the winter even when the temperatures dropped, and we’ve had a few new players joining us which is great. We’re looking to build on last year which was more about getting going again after COVID, and hopefully this season we can reach the Grand Final and pick up some silverware which is our main aim this year.
“It’s just looking for that effort and picking up one those little one-percenters in game which make the difference. If we can do that and keep our lads healthy then we’ve got enough talent, ability and numbers to go all the way this year.
“We’ve fallen just short in the last couple of seasons and probably not had enough consistency, so hopefully we can get it right this time and challenge those top sides for the trophies.”
After some time off due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 saw the Rhinos challenge for success again, ultimately falling short of reaching the PDRL Grand Final after a final day defeat to eventual winners Warrington Wolves, who secured a second successive talent with victory over this weekend’s hosts Wakefield Trinity.
This season the PDRL League is reverting back to the popular festival format which served the sport well in 2019, giving spectators an opportunity to see all the teams in action with a series of quick 25 minutes games played across two pitches, with each side playing twice per festival.
It will be the fifth year that Leeds Rhinos Foundation has fielded a PDRL team, and club captain Simon Brown- who has been almost an ever-present in the side since the first ever game played back in 2018 against Warrington- believes this is their most talented squad yet.
“We’ve got some really exciting new talent in the side this year, mixed together with some developed, more experienced players who have been with us a while, so it’s going to be fun and we’re all looking forward to putting on a show for the fans.
“Looking at the side we’ve added some real speed and strength and the idea now is that we take advantage of these strengths and moving forwards we can play a more expansive brand of rugby, which I think will make us contenders this year.
“With the new festival format we’ve now got to coach differently, because we can’t work our way into the game. It’s all about making a fast start and hitting the ground running because 25 minutes does not give much margin for error, so we’ve got to really attack it and hopefully that’s what we’re going to do.
Rhinos face Castleford Tigers at 11:15am to begin the season and then take on debutants Bradford Bulls at 12:45pm as part of the opening festival of Physical Disability Rugby League at Eastmoor Dragons ARLFC, Woodhouse Road, Wakefield, WF1 4RD.
The full list of fixtures and kick off times is:
Game 1 – 11.15am (Pitch 1): Leeds Rhinos vs Castleford Tigers
Game 2 – 11.15am (Pitch 2): Wigan Warriors vs Warrington Wolves
Game 3 – 12pm (Pitch 1): Bradford Bulls vs Wakefield Trinity
Game 4 – 12pm (Pitch 2): Wigan Warriors vs Warrington Wire
Game 5 – 12.45pm (Pitch 1): Wakefield Trinity vs Castleford Tigers
Game 6 – 12.45pm (Pitch 2): Bradford Bulls vs Leeds Rhinos
Game 7 – 1.15pm (Pitch 1): Warrington Wolves vs Warrington Wire
Entry is FREE for all spectators, with limited car parking available on site.
The full 17-man Leeds Rhinos PDRL squad for Sunday is: