Smith has eye on the prize - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Smith has eye on the prize

27/02/2010 12:29:22 PM Comments (0)

Payback, pride, unfinished business. Call it what you like, but rugby league's World Club Challenge is a title Melbourne captain Cameron Smith wants.

While the timing of the clash with Leeds at Elland Road on Sunday (Monday AEDT) could render it a high-profile pre-season trial for the Australians, their 11-4 loss to the Rhinos in 2008 still smarts.

"I didn't make the trip two years ago, but I know the boys were fairly disappointed with the result last time," said Smith, who missed 2008 to attend his daughter's birth.

"Things have been quite good for us back home, we've been in four grand finals in a row, we've won two, but the World Club Challenge is something that we haven't been able to bring home.

"The team did it back in 2000 but this group of guys that have been together for a while now, we haven't been able to achieve that."

Melbourne's win over St Helens is one of just three by Australian teams in the past decade of the WCC.

But it could be argued English Super League champions Leeds want their own measure of revenge after losing to Manly last year.

Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield expects to face a bigger challenge this year than the Storm outfit that braved windy winter conditions last time.

"We've all seen how good Melbourne have been over the last four years in the NRL and it was certainly a difficult game two years ago, but I think they've improved, I think they've got a better squad now," Sinfield said.

"I expect it to be a lot tougher than two years ago."

Test hooker Smith looks set to switch to the halves, partnering Brett Finch in the absence of the injured Cooper Cronk, at least for some of the game.

Under-20s full-back Gareth Widdop showed he could slot in at five-eighth during last week's warm-up against Harlequins, and the Yorkshire-raised youngster is in contention for a bench place.

Rory Kostjasyn, who can be used as cover for the halves and hooking positions, is also a contender, while Ryan Hinchcliffe played at rake for most of the 34-10 win over Harlequins.

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy wants to keep his options open.

"He's a hard guy to replace, Cooper Cronk," Bellamy said.

"Him, Cameron and Billy (Slater), they're the spine of our team, so you take out the middle of our spine, it takes a little bit of operating to fix it all back up again.

"But we settled early in the week on what we plan to do and we'll just see how it goes in the game.

"It looks like it's working OK at training, but then at training you haven't got big six-foot-five guys coming in trying to smash you, so we'll see how they go under pressure."

Leeds have had a patchy start to the Super League season, winning two matches and losing two.

Melbourne open their NRL campaign against Cronulla on March 13.

Squads: Melbourne: Billy Slater, Gareth Widdop, Luke MacDougall, Dane Nielsen, Anthony Quinn, Greg Inglis, Brett Finch, Aiden Tolman, Jeff Lima, Jesse Bromwich, Adam Blair, Ryan Tandy, Cameron Smith, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hoffman, Kevin Proctor, Todd Lowrie, Rory Kostjasyn, Hep Cahill.

Leeds: Brent Webb, Brett Delaney, Keith Senior, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai, Danny Buderus, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones Buchanan, Ali Lauitiiti, Kevin Sinfield, Matt Diskin, Greg Eastwood, Ryan Bailey, Ian Kirke, Luke Burgess, Jay Pitts, Kallum Watkins.

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