MATHERS LOOKING FOR GRAND FINAL GLORY
Shooting star Richard Mathers has admitted he is living a dream.
Shooting star Richard Mathers has admitted he is living a dream. And Super League’s most exciting emerging prospect is aiming to complete a remarkable year by collecting a Grand Final winner’s ring at Old Trafford tonight. The 20-year-old full-back began the season as understudy to veteran Gary Connolly, but has established himself as a key member of coach Tony Smith’s side and will make his first appearance in a major final against Bradford Bulls tonight. "This year has been beyond my wildest dreams," admitted Mathers to the Yorkshire Evening Post. "To top it off tonight is going to be very memorable. "At the start of the year I never thought I’d be playing in a Grand Final. As a Leeds lad and a Leeds supporter all my life, it is great to get there and hopefully we can cap it with a win. "It is what you dream of as a kid. This is the biggest thing in my career and I intend to really enjoy it. It is the two best teams in the competition and I think it will boil down to who handles the occasion better and who sticks to their game plan. "That will be massively important. It is all about who makes the right decisions under pressure and doesn’t get influenced by the big occasion and the big crowd." Bulls will be playing their fourth successive Grand Final, but Mathers said: "It is our first time, so a lot will count on our game plan. "We will have to rely on that, whereas Bradford have experience in the bank. We can’t do anything about that. "We will have to forget about Bradford and what their experience is and just concentrate on us. "It is a new experience for us, but we are a close knit group and we will get through it together. "We will enjoy the occasion as much as anything, but we will do the little things right and make sure we are properly prepared. "Our coach Tony Smith and his staff have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done, as we do. They will relay that through to us and I’m sure we will be all right." Mathers said Rhinos’ players are in relaxed mood with just a day to go until the club’s biggest game in 32 years. "That’s how it has been all year," he said. "We work when we have to work and have a laugh – drop goal competitions and things like that – when we can. "I think that’s a massive key to what we’ve got to do this week, not change our preparations. "It is a massive game, probably the biggest of 95 per cent of people’s career, but changing our routine and the way we do things isn’t going to win us it. "It’s sticking to things we know. If you change things and bring in things you don’t know, you might be a bit uncomfortable with that. "We’ve done our same sessions in the gym and on the field and everything’s familiar. We all know our jobs and what we need to do." Mathers is a diehard Leeds United fan, but he said he’s happy to be at Old Trafford on this particular occasion. "I’ve had a couple of mates texting me about that," he said. "It will be a bit strange going there and playing. But it is a world famous stadium and it is up there among the best in the world – and we are in the away dressing rooms. "I will try and find out where Alan Smith used to sit, never mind where he sits now. I’ll try and sit where a few of my heroes have done and hopefully that will get me through. "For me personally the Manchester United thing does add a bit, because of the rivalry. "But it is a great stadium, it’s going to be full – half Leeds and half Bradford – and they are going to be screaming and making as much noise as they can. That is something to savour in itself."