Wakefield Wildcats Players’ Player and Coaches Player of the Year Andy Raleigh cannot wait to face the reigning Super League champions on Saturday as Trinity look to make week two of the play-offs.
The Wildcats have stormed into the top eight over the last two months having won seven straight games which is the best top flight winning run since 1976 and now prepare to take on Leeds at Headingley. The Rhinos lifted the World Club Challenge earlier this year and reached the Challenge Cup final only to be defeated by Warrington Wolves to maintain their status as one of the world’s leading clubs.
Richard Agar’s men have nothing to fear though after beating this weekend’s opponents 38-18 at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium in July while pushing them close earlier this year when the Rhinos edged out the Wildcats 44-40 in an entertaining game. Prop forward Raleigh says preparations have gone well ahead of tomorrow’s elimination showdown.
“It’s going good, everybody is excited to be in the play-offs so there is a good feeling around the place and everyone is keen to get out there on Saturday.
“We have a good opportunity to have a good fist at the play-offs and I think having got ourselves in this position Rich Agar has already said we have nothing to lose so we just have to go there and put in a good performance.
“We don’t want to whimper out no matter how far we go, we don’t want our last game to be a poor game so we want to make sure we put in a good performance and hopefully this won’t be our last week, hopefully we get another week and then it’s the same case again going into next week trying our best. We don’t want to be happy in just making the play-offs, we want to make sure we have a good go at it.”
Leeds finished fifth for a second consecutive year and it was a huge achievement to win the Grand Final from that position last year and will find it just as tough in 2012. Brian McDermott’s troops also lost the Cup final last year and go into this play-off campaign having lost three of their last four matches, including the defeat at Wembley. Raleigh knows what it is like to lose the final after tasting defeat in 2006 while playing for Huddersfield and he says despite the disappointment, Leeds are a team full of high quality players.
“They are a top side and they have top players throughout the side in the game breakers so we are going to have to play well to match them. We have had good games against them and we’ve had a win when we played them at home so fingers crossed we can put in that kind of performance again.
“I think we need to make sure we close down people like Burrow and Peacock because they are big players for them and they manage to get any game to a high tempo by speeding the game up. We need to contain those players but again they have so many top players that you start worrying about them two then you go away from what we have been doing well. We need to focus on playing how we have been playing over the last seven games because we’ve played pretty well. If we can keep that going then we are in with a chance.
“Our job as forwards is to go out there and get us going forward and we have a great back three as well that do that so if we can do our job there is no doubt Tim Smith has been playing fantastically well and if he can keep doing his job then we will be in with a shout.”
The number 10 goes into the top eight clash having scooped two of the main awards from ‘Celebrate Wakefield’ on Sunday and after winning Players’ Player of the Year award he revealed he has won the accolade at every club he has been at after lifting the honour at Sheffield, Hull KR and the Giants.
“It was a fantastic night; I want to give a big thanks to all the players that voted for me for Players’ Player and obviously a big thanks to Rich Agar for bringing me here and giving me that award. It is fantastic to get these sorts of awards at the end of the year but it’s not what you play for but it’s really nice when you pick them up.
“You spend all day with the players at training and on a match day so it’s nice to get recognised by your peers. It’s a massive award and I’m really grateful that they thought I was good enough to receive it.
“My first year has gone pretty well because it’s always a bit of a worry when you start something new and thankfully we have a great bunch of lads here and a great bunch of coaches. It has been a fantastic place to be and I’ve really enjoyed my rugby this year, definitely more than I have done in recent years because I’ve been able to play on a regular basis and to feel as if you’re contributing is a massive thing.”
Tickets and travel are still on sale from the official Wildcats retail outlets but are selling extremely fast. Tickets start from £17 for adult Gold Members and £20 for non-members while all junior tickets are only £5, regardless of being a member.
Tickets can be purchased from the Ridings Centre Store or Rapid Solicitors Stadium Box Office or by calling 01924 201548 / 01924 211611.
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