Defiant Luke Gale still believes Castleford Tigers are trophy contenders despite their run of three defeats that have spoiled their positive start to the season.
The stand-in Tigers captain admitted his team had been poor in the last two weeks, but regarded the results as more of a blip than an indication of a struggling team.
“All teams have them. Leeds are Grand Final winners and they’ve been struggling. The best teams bounce back from them so that’s what we’ll be looking to do.
“You can’t throw the towel in after one poor performance. We still believe we are good enough.
“Against Saints we were one try off.
“Against Salford we were disappointed with ourselves. We thought we were the best team, but we did some stupid things – myself included.
“Last week it was a really poor start, it was just one of those games. You can’t really put one finger on it, but I do know we’ve worked hard this week.
“We’ve only had one really poor performance.”
Gale is glad the Tigers have a big game to focus on now as they aim to put right what went wrong last week – and they do not come much bigger than playing Leeds Rhinos for both the player and the fans.
He said: “It’s a massive game for us, bouncing back from a poor performance last Friday.
“It will be really good to do so against our big local rivals.
“It was disappointing last week. The boys have been in this week and it’s not been a happy place, but it is a really good chance to bounce back.
“Everyone looks forward to it. Obviously I played for Leeds, I grew up in Leeds and I’m a Leeds lad, but everyone gets up for this game and we’ve done well in the past.
“I am good mates with a few of the Leeds boys, but we’ll be rivals on Thursday and I’ll put that to one side.
“I am good friends with Danny McGuire and we go for a coffee every now and again, so it’d be good to get one over him.
“I think he’s going to be back and he’ll give them some guidance. We are looking forward to it, it’s a massive one for us.
“We’ve got a good record against them, we’ve produced some top quality games against them and we’re looking to do that on Thursday.
“We normally play better away against them, so it would be good to beat them down here.”
Gale has watched as the Rhinos have not had the best of starts this season with injuries and the loss of key players from last year handicapping their efforts to defend their Super League title.
He said: “I think they are struggling to be honest.
“They are missing some key personnel, a bit like ourselves, and it has affected them.
“They will probably take a bit of confidence from last week, beating St Helens, but I think if we apply our game we’ve got some areas we can trouble them in and I think we’ll go well.”
Gale is enjoying his new captain role with Castleford, but admitted he would not mind having Michael Shenton back and believes the side is missing his experience.
He added: “It’s a bit of a different role for me. But we are missing Michael’s leadership qualities. We’ve missed Benny Roberts, Michael and Dorny.
“They are three big leaders and when you lose three big voices like that other people have to step up.
“We probably haven’t done that the last few weeks. We definitely miss his voice and his skill and pace out wide.
“I think Webby has done a good job filling in, but you lose a voice. We need more voices and more leaders at the moment.”