Youngster reveals what it’s like to play on Boxing Day having grown up as a fan attending the traditional game

In the Boxing Day clash between Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity, the Rhinos’ head coach Rohan Smith sent out a very experimental team in terms of positional switches, new players and plenty of young players.

One of those young players was Joe Gibbons who is a season ticket holder in the infamous South Stand and he’s told Rhinos’ Youtube Channel what it’s like to make the switch from fan to player.

Joe Gibbons, son of former player and current Rhinos’ women’s assistant coach David, has been a lifelong Rhinos fan and he commented on the traditional Boxing Day game and what it was like to play in, compared to having watched as a fan.

“I didn’t really expect it to be honest, when I got told it was a bit of a surprise and I was really happy and it’s a proud moment.

“I was just over the moon really, it’s a bit surreal walking out for the first time. I used to be a fan and season ticket holder in the South Stand so to be on the other side of it is something really special and one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

“I’ve been a few times (on Boxing Day), it’s a really good occasion and it’s great to see the fans come out in such good numbers.”

The fans certainly did turn out as well with an attendance figure of 9,143 which surpassed the league wide average for 2022 and also clears the average attendance figures of eight separate Super League teams.

Gibbons, making his senior debut, got plenty of minutes in Rohan Smith’s experimental side that eventually fell foul to a flurry of late tries which only served to make the scoreline look more uneven than the game reflected.

“My first full pre-season so it’s good to put the lungs to the test and see how I can match up with some more seasoned pros and I felt I held my own so I’m happy.”

Asked specifially about the Wakefield side that ran out in opposition, featuring the likes of new signings Renouf Atoni and Morgan Smith as well as plenty of starters, Gibbons revealed it was just what he and the squad needed.

“Yeah it was a really good test, you want to be playing against them players with more experie3nce because that’s how you learn and you get better from your mistakes as well.”

Despite the scoreline suggesting otherwise it wasn’t a game full of mistakes with the experimental side generally holding their own and looking very strong to start the second-half.

It was only Morgan Gannon’s kick out on the full that served to remind you that he was playing a new position with many of the positional switches working well, Gannon impressing throughout aside from the one misplaced kick.

Gibbons and the rest of the Rhinos squad will have an extended break before their next game which is against Leigh in the latter half of January but the pre-season grind will continue in training with coach Smith sure to have plenty for them to work on.

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