Leeds Rhinos huge underdogs in World Cup Challenge, says Gary Hetherington
Last Updated: 14/11/17 9:56am
Leeds will have a 10 per cent chance of winning the World Club Challenge in 2018, says the Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington.
Reigning NRL premiers Melbourne Storm will become only the third Australian team to stage the World Club Challenge when they host the Super League champions at AAMI Park on February 16.
The announcement, which ends weeks of uncertainty over the fixture, was made at a press conference at AAMI Park, venue for Sunday's World Cup quarter-final between England and Papua New Guinea, attended by Hetherington.
Leeds had provisionally booked Elland Road for the showpiece event but Hetherington says his club are happy to travel the 12,000 miles to ensure the event takes place for the 19th successive year.
"Winning the World Club Challenge is the ultimate achievement for all Super League and NRL teams and we are excited to be coming to Melbourne to take on the best club team I have seen," Hetherington said.
"Leeds Rhinos and Melbourne Storm have been the code's two most successful teams over the past 20 years and it's fitting for us to come together for the fourth time in the World Club Challenge.
"A victory would be the finest in our club's 128-year history. We know from the teams in the NRL that come here to AAMI Park the records show that we have a 10 per cent chance of winning so that is the size of our challenge."
The match will kick off the 25th year of Melbourne Storm's existence and four-time premiership-winning coach Craig Bellamy says he will be forced to blood several youngsters after losing the likes of Cooper Cronk, one of 14 players from the club currently involved in the World Cup.
"The two governing bodies probably didn't think it would happen this year because of the World Cup," said Bellamy.
"A few of our guys will be late back for training and won't have a whole heap of preparation but it will be the same for Leeds.
"It's not ideal but it's a very prestigious event and it will be an opportunity for some young guys in our squad to fill the positions that have been made vacant from last year."
There will be an unofficial World Club Series in February, with Hull FC taking on St George Illawarra and Wigan playing South Sydney in a double header at Sydney's ANZ Stadium on Sunday, February 17.
That comes a week after the two English sides play each other in a league fixture in Wollongong - the first Super League game to be played outside Europe.
Leeds will fly out to Australia after playing Hull KR in a round two Super League fixture at Elland Road on Thursday, February 8, live on Sky Sports.
Brisbane Broncos and Sydney Roosters are the only Australian clubs to have hosted the World Club Challenge, which was first contested in 1976 and became a regular fixture in the calendar 24 years later when Melbourne beat St Helens.