It is tough being a new recruit wherever you go in rugby league – but Anthony Mullally must have felt doubly out-of-place last year.
After being announced as one of Leeds’ new signings for the 2016 season, Mullally debuted before that year had even begun, playing in the exhibition game against New Zealand at Headingley which doubled up as the fond farewell for the club’s retiring legends.
But 2016 was a year to forget for not only the prop, but the Rhinos as a whole. By his own admission, last season was tough for the Ireland international – and if anyone epitomises how the tide may just be turning at Headingley, it is perhaps Mullally.
This season, he has played in all-but one of the club’s Super League games and will be involved again on Friday as Leeds look to make it three wins in a row against Huddersfield.
We had a good pre-season and we were feeling pretty good so while that was a big step backwards, we left it there and we moved on. We’ve not dwelled on it and I think you can see that in the way we’ve performed since. We needed a huge response and we’ve had two – we’re looking forward and we can’t wait for Huddersfield.
“It was really tough last year but I never had any doubt it was the right move,” he tells TotalRL.
“You can’t just come and expect to win things; you’ve got to earn it and we all gained something from last year. These boys have got a history of winning things but I feel like I’ve been with them at their lowest point so we’re all in it together. It was just one of those years; we got our act together at the back end as you could see.
“I think people like to see Leeds not doing too well; I think they get off on it if I’m being honest. It’s nice to prove people wrong so hopefully we can keep doing that.”
It will perhaps take more than back-to-back wins for people to change their perception of the Rhinos, be that fairly or unfairly. The 66-10 defeat to Castleford had almost plummeted Leeds into crisis just weeks into the season – but Mullally insists Leeds’ confidence in themselves never wavered.
“I’ll be honest; there were some reminders of last year when there were Mondays full of doom and gloom after that Cas game,” he admits. “But we knew we were better than that.
“Top is our goal, that hasn’t changed. We never doubted ourselves and we left it in the past quickly and got on with it. We’ve responded really well.”
Mullally has even managed to contribute to the try-scoring tally in recent weeks, with four-pointers against Castleford and last week against Wakefield – and it has surprised even himself.
“I’ve been in the right place at the right time – especially against Cas,” he laughs. “I get some stick for my video expressions when I score but I can’t help it, I don’t get many of them! I average about two a year and I’m on two already!
“Huddersfield will be tough. They had a similar year to us last year but like us they’ve got some quality personnel and they’ll be looking to hit back this season.
“I felt like I was playing catch-up all last year but I feel really, really good. I just want to continue to show I’m worth a place in this team and hopefully help Leeds kick on.”