Headingley was rocked by the Ellis 'out of the blue' announcement and while all Leeds supporters will be sad to see the departure of a player that gives 100% every week, you have to admire his determination to prove himself down under. Ellis has committed to give his all for the Rhinos in 2008 and will be looking to take another Grand Final winners ring with him when he packs his bags next October.
For sundays fixture McClennan welcomes back JJB, recovered from last weeks minor hamstring tweak, and the likelihood is that it will be either Scruton, Ablett or Kirke who fail to make the seventeen. Hall and Luke Burgess, are the other additions to the twenty man squad and it is great to see Luke getting recognition for a fantastic season last year for the Academy. Kev Sinfield survived a disciplinary hearing on tuesday when despite being found guilty of a 'careless tackle' he was cleared to play this weekend, enabling him the chance to continue a scoring run which goes back to July 2nd 2006.
John Sharp will have been working his player into a frenzy ahead of sundays contest. The Giants have lost a couple of key players in Brad Drew and Chris Nero, but have strengthened their squad with the likes of Luke Robinson, David Hodgson and Paul Whatuira. Many Giants players will have one eye on inclusion in Tony Smith squad for the World Cup and be seeking to impress from the off, especially as Huddersfield based Smith is likely to be at the game on sunday. Ryan Hudson, Eorl Crabtree and Keith Mason will all fancy their chances of a call up.
Three Giants to watch;
The last time that the Rhinos lost a Superleague game to the Giants was at the then MacApline back in July 2003 when the home side edged a 30-24 win. Since then the Rhinos have wont eight Superleague games on the bounce including last seasons 25-12 and 16-12. The game that will still be painful in the memories of most Rhinos supporters will be the Challenge Cup semi-final at Odsal in July 2006 when the Giants caused one of the biggest semi-final upsets for years in hammering us 30-12. A game best forgotten.
I think that this will be a tight game. Leeds didn't look overly sharp last weekend and were out-muscled at times by a keen and well drilled Hull KR. This is the Giants season opener and they will probably be more prepared for this game than for any other this season. They will be fast out of the traps and straight at us. If we can stem the opening twenty without conceeding too many then we should have the power to outlast them, but if we let them get on a roll it could be curtains.
The bookies haven't put the odds up yet but I'd expect Leeds to be handicapped between six and ten points. If this is the case then I'd be putting my money on the Giants to keep within this.
The forecast for sunday is for it to be mostly sunny and with temperatures up to twelve degrees. It should be ideal conditions for a good flowing game so long as conditions under foot are not too boggy.
With a large crowd expected it should be a great atmosphere. We need to be in good voice and get behind the lads to keep our 100% record intact, and maintain our top-of-the-table position. Enjoy the game.