Player-Coach Dan Roberts expressed his pride in the efforts of his Leeds Rhinos PDRL side this season as they look to make it third time lucky at the PDRL Finals Day on Saturday.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s showpiece event in Manchester, Roberts admitted that it has been far from plain sailing for his side at times this year, but the effort he’s received from his players has never once faltered.
“We’re really looking forward to competing at Finals Day which comes at the end of a really positive season for the team,” said Roberts, who will also be helping to coach the England Lions team at the first ever PDRL World Cup starting in October.
“The lads have been incredible this season and I think all the coaches agree they’ve been really receptive to what we’ve asked from them, both in training and on matchdays.
“To finish in second place and go straight into the Semi-Finals is a big advantage to have on Saturday and it’s testament to the lad’s efforts this season, especially during some difficult moments where we were low on numbers and had the odds stacked against us.
“The festival at Castleford always springs to mind when we went with 11 players and four of those were red shorts, meaning all our full contact players had to play three full games on the bounce, even when they were hurting. Not once did they complain or give anything less than 100% for me.
“It showed me how much heart these lads have got and what playing for this club means to them, so I can’t fault their commitment to the cause and I hope this brings the success it deserves.”
After a strong start to the campaign which included a first league win over reigning champions Warrington Wolves in three years, the Rhinos hit a rough patch during the middle of the season as results suffered in the face of injuries and availability issues.
However, they were able to grind out results when it mattered most, going unbeaten at the final festival of the season in Bradford and defeating a Castleford side who were riding a nine game winning streak and on the verge of overtaking the Rhinos in the standings.
That showing last time out, which also featured a well-earned draw against unbeaten leaders Wakefield Trinity, has given the group plenty of confidence going into Finals Day, and Roberts revealed that they will be at virtually full strength for this weekend’s games.
“We’re got really good numbers for Finals Day and we’re heading over the Pennines expecting to utilise our full squad who are all in it together.
“I think it’s the first time this year we’ve had everyone at our disposal available for one reason or another, so as the coach that’s obviously going to give me some positive selection headaches.
“We know whoever we face it’s going to be a huge challenge, but we’ve shown this year that on our day we can be a match for anyone and we just have to believe in our own ability to make sure we execute the gameplan.”
“This year we’ve shuffled the pack and brought in some big hitters like Aiden Miller and Mike Alderson, as well as the addition of some real pace with players like Henry (Ackroyd) and Nick Leigh.
“We’ve definitely kept making our squad stronger and since the start of the season there has been four or five additions who have given us a real boost at important times.
“As the year’s gone on we’ve kept improving and we feel good about coming into Finals Day on the back of three really good team performances.”
This is not the first time Leeds Rhinos PDRL have made it to Finals Day, with both of their previous appearances in 2019 and 2021 ending in disappointment at the Semi-Finals stage.
Having the chance to play in these big games is something that Roberts relishes and the boyhood Leeds Rhinos fan would love nothing more than to be the man responsible for guiding Leeds Rhinos PDRL to their first title.
“It’s a massive opportunity, and it’s something I dreamed of as a kid- playing for Leeds Rhinos in a Final.
“That was something I thought had been taken away and would never come true because of my disability, but thanks to PDRL and the support of Leeds Rhinos Foundation I’ve been given that opportunity back which is something I don’t take for granted
“For a lot of the lads who are lifelong Leeds fans it means everything to them, and once we cross that white line on Saturday we’ll be giving everything we’ve got to do the club proud and bring home the cup.”
The PDRL Finals Day takes place at the Belle Vue Sports Village in Manchester on Saturday 10th September, with the final two fixtures being streamed live on Our League. The format of the competition is as follows:
Game 1: Castleford vs Wigan – 11:00am
Game 2: Warrington vs Bradford – 11:30am
Semi-final 1: Wakefield vs lowest placed qualifier – 12:00pm
Semi-final 2: Leeds vs highest placed qualifier – 12:30pm
5th Place Play-off: Game 1 Loser vs Game 2 Loser – 13:00pm
3rd/4th Place Play-off: Semi-final 1 Loser vs Semi-final 2 Loser – 13:30pm
Final: Semi-final 1 Winner vs Semi-final 2 Winner – 14:00pm
For more information about Leeds Rhinos PDRL and how to get involved with the team, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.