Assistant Coach, Willie Poching, Previews Sunday’s Final Home Game Of The Regular Season, Against Leeds, In The Company Of David Clegg
Having spent a total of nine years within the ranks of the Leeds Rhinos’ playing, and subsequently, coaching staff, so great was the influence upon our Assistant Coach, Willie Poching, in terms of enjoyment and success, that he still has longstanding friendships there, and he retains an interest to this day in their weekly performances and results.
He, consequently, is most fully aware of the formidable prowess which they, as a team, possess which he puts down to the winning culture within the club.
“It is a truism that winning breeds winning,” he maintains, “and a lot of those guys have got used to doing so, for a long time now.  There is also an element of intimidation of their opposing teams, which has to be countered.
“Their players also get used to playing in big games and on big occasions, but we, now, have some big games coming up, and we are delighted to be taking part in those.”
It is several years since he parted company with the Rhinos, during which time he has been involved with a number of other clubs, to whom he has given the same absolute commitment he showed to Leeds during his days there.  Now, in the week ahead of Sunday’s encounter, he is most single-minded in his determination to help the Salford players prepare well for the match.
“It is a really good opportunity for us to cement ourselves into the top four,” he considers.  “With both sides sitting second and third in the table it will be a fantastic challenge for us, and, I believe, an equally fantastic game.
“Leeds certainly have quality throughout their team, but our guys are growing in confidence and quality.  Growing in confidence in one another, as we are now doing, takes you a long way, and will hold us in good stead come the weekend.”
So, with two such well-placed, and talent-filled teams, how does he expect the game to shape up?
“It is going to be one almighty battle, and the forwards are going to be up front in it,” is his assessment.
“It will certainly be exciting.  Right across the park, both teams have the skills to move the ball around, whilst Leeds have some really big hitters we shall have to contend with.”
With such attractive opponents, and a home side capable of equalling anybody, the whole club, including Willie, is hopeful of one of our best supported attendances of the season.
“It’s not on TV, so a lot of people who would like to, won’t get the chance to see it, but for those within travelling distance, it will be well worth getting down to the A J Bell Stadium, and it would be good to see a whole lot of them down here, because they’ll see a very good game,” he enthuses.
“I’m sure that those who have been to our matches during the season, so far, will agree that they’ve seen some really good rugby from our guys, though we are still not the finished article by any means.  We still have improvement within us, and we have to continue with that, this weekend.”
Looking back to our previous encounter with the same team, back in February, many who travelled will recall how our ambitions were thwarted by a single pass, moments before the final whistle, with Leeds salvaging the winning points, at the death.  We all will be keen that those dues will be repaid come Sunday, though Willie, himself, has other foci, on which to concentrate.
“The loss of that previous game will be some extra motivation for the players, and that’s fine, but my concern is on our playing well in the coming match, because we shall really need to be at our best,” he insists.
“Looking back to February, there were some early elements to that last play which needed a better response from our guys, and, because of that, we came away unrewarded for our performance.  We are now a whole lot better than we were then.”
For evidence in support of this last statement, one needs look no further than our first half try finished off by Kris Welham.  Every pass was made with precision in both timing and accuracy, whilst the support play was of the highest order.
“There is absolutely no fluke or coincidence to any of that; it is all down to the hard work, both physical and technical, that has been put in, not just on the field but off it too, and now the guys are getting the reward for all of this,” Willie explains.
“They are now working with each other to make each other better, and that, for me, has been the highlight since coming here.  Even when they have been up against a bit of adversity they have kept going.”
The way in which they overturned an early six point deficit, against Huddersfield, to, as Willie puts it, “blow them off the park with some beautiful attacking rugby, off the back of Michael Dobson’s forty-twenties,” bears testament to this.
That said, we are now at the time of the season where players have played a lot of matches including two double header weekends, with no respite this year as a result of the cup run, and the season still with a long way to run.  It is perhaps, unsurprising therefore, that there has been a dip in energy levels towards the end of the last two games.
“A lot of our guys have played a lot of minutes, and they have played it physically and tough, but there is still more left in us yet.  The exciting part is still to come,” he concludes.
Referee – Mr J Child
Touch Judges – P Marklove, P Graham
In Goal Judges –  T Owen, N Lawrenson
Reserve Ref – S Mikalauskas