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Long Read Interview: Zane Tetevano

Leeds Rhinos are now fifth in the table which earlier in the season seemed very unlikely.

More unlikely than that was the notion that Leeds would string together five wins for the first time since 2015 with games against second place Wigan, fourth place Catalans, in form Salford and other tricky fixtures yet the Rhinos had the ability in all five to get the job done not only making it five wins on the spin but seven wins in eight as Rohan Smith leads Leeds towards the play-offs and the mood they’re in, they won’t just be in the top six to make up the numbers.

Their latest triumph came against Warrington last night which sent the Rhinos above Castleford by one point. The Rhinos led 24-6 at the break but spent virtually the whole second half defending as they clung on to a 24-18 win showing the character being instilled in the side.

In the end it was Zane Tetevano’s try on the stroke of halftime that was the difference between the two teams, and he like others have returned to the side recently after long absences and seems to be reaping the benefits of working under Rohan Smith.

After the game, he spoke to us about what ultimately gave Leeds the edge on a big night for the Rhinos: “Yeah, look we had to defend. They had the footy more than we did and that’s just what we’ve got to do, scramble, look after each other and stay connected.”

Leeds’ scramble defence was magnificent but it was only beneficial because Tetevano had scored Leeds’ fourth try in the first half.

It’s Tetevano’s second of the season and both have come at home against Warrington scoring last against the Wolves in Round One. He reflected on the try and his role in the Rohan Smith system which saw him cross: “It was nice, my last one was here against Warrington in Round One. Just doing my job I guess pushing up through the middle with Bentley. It was good.”

Now getting minutes after a number of bans, Tetevano feels like he just needs to be on the field to keep his momentum going. He also believes that Rohan Smith is having the perfect impact on him and the squad: “I know how I can play, I just need to be on the field quite honestly.

“Since Rohan has come he’s put a lot of his skillset and principles which have been good for us. I think things are coming into fruition. We just need to keep training.”

He’s also taken on Smith’s avoiding the table mentality focusing on the next job on the horizon: “I couldn’t care less about the table, next job mentality. We’ll take some good stuff out of that, scrappy but we got it done.”

Leeds were able to get over the line because of their togetherness on the night something there to see when Tetevano scored and his teammates gathered round him instantly.

The forward noted now under Smith there has been a togetherness in the pack which has helped create a willingness to promote the ball when the opportunity arises but also a trust that sometimes a forward just needs to hold onto it: “We’re just there for each other, we feel comfortable to play with the ball as well. Sometimes we’ve just got to take the tackle, we can play with skill but we’ve got to be cautious with the ball.”

With a top four finish not out of the question with Catalans losing again yesterday which leaves just three points between the Dragons and the Rhinos – all eyes are now on Leeds to see if they can take advantage.

However, they’re set to face some real tests this week as they come up against third place Huddersfield on Wednesday after a short turnaround before doing the same ahead of a trip to Catalans.

Winning both would confirm Leeds’ place inside the top six due to the fact sixth and seventh place meet in Round 26 as Castleford host Salford, but it’ll be easier said than done for Leeds to do so especially after a tough game against Warrington in which Leeds had to hold on till the very end.

After that victory, Tetevano spoke to Serious About Rugby League about the threat Huddersfield pose on Wednesday believing them to be a tough side who will pose a real danger to the Rhinos.

“Yeah, we’ve got Huddersfield next week which will be a tough one. We’ve done the job tonight, we’ll rest up and get ready for Huddersfield. It sounds cliché but they’re a dangerous side.”

Tetevano also had ice strapped to his knee after the win over Warrington but Leeds fans need not worry as Tetevano explained it was precaution at this stage of the season as he didn’t want any injury to creep up on him: “It’s just a precaution, don’t want anything creeping up on me.”

This makes sense after such a long spell on the sidelines. The forward noted that he feels he just needs to stay on the field to continue to get back to his best as we’ve seen in the last two weeks as he even got a try in the win over Warrington.

Tetevano said: “I know how I can play, I just need to be on the field quite honestly.”

Lastly, he answered the question on if he thinks Leeds could win the Grand Final, and though he stated that was the goal, his immediate focus was on the next game against the Giants on Wednesday.

“Yeah that’s the goal, we obviously want to win the Grand Final,” said Tetevano. “But we’ve got Huddersfield next week which will be a tough one. We’ve done the job tonight, we’ll rest up and get ready for Huddersfield.

“It sounds cliché but they’re a dangerous side. Every game we’ve got left now will be tough so we have to take each game and each week as it comes and keep building and improving.”

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