Prior ready to impress

He’s turned them down once before, but Matt Prior insists the time is right for his move to Leeds.

The Aussie forward has finally joined the Rhinos, four years after initially turning down a move to the Headingley club.

Prior had held talks with Leeds at the end of 2015, fresh off Leeds winning a historic treble.

The club had targeted Prior as a replacement for the retiring Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai, having impressed in his first two years at Cronulla.

However, he decided to re-sign with the Sharks, a move that proved worthwhile as he went on to win the NRL title a year later.

“I’d been speaking to Cuthbo (Adam Cuthbertson) at the time about coming over,” he revealed.

“I was in-between re-signing with the Sharks but had this on the table too. But I decided to re-sign with the Sharks and I guess that was the right move at the time for me.

“If I’m honest, I was always more leaning towards the Sharks. I felt like I still had more to prove there and we were just rebuilding at the time, we were getting some really good players on board.

“Everything worked out and we won a Premiership with a group of really good lads.

“There wasn’t much doubt this time though. In fact there was no doubt in my mind that I was making the right call. I met Rich (Agar) quickly when he was out in Australia, he spoke about how they were rebuilding and hungry for success.

“I want to be a part of a club that wants to win every week and has big aspirations with where they’re heading. That was the big driving force behind what got me here.”

Having now joined Leeds, Prior can see similarities between the club’s current position and that of Cronulla’s when he opted to re-sign with the NRL club.

“I feel like they’ve gone through some of those tough years,” he added.

“They’re rebuilding, getting the right players on board and heading in the right direction. I’m excited to be here and hopefully we get that success on the field.”

One of the only drawbacks of moving to Super League was the effect it would have on Prior’s State of Origin aspirations. Prior made his New South Wales debut in 2018, and had remained in contention last year.

He accepts that in moving to Leeds, those hopes have now gone.

“Unless you’re a freakish player like Andrew Johns or Andrew Langer then it’s not happening.

“Someone like me, who is a toiler, isn’t getting flown over! I’m sure they’ll go with one of the younger guys, but there’s plenty of good talent coming through.”

At 32, Prior comes over at the back end of his career. With that will come inevitable cynicism, with many before him following a similar path and going on to fail once arriving in the competition, despite picking up a tidy salary.

“I’ve never really played footy for money,” he responded.

“I base my decisions on what feels right and where I think I’m going to win. I did that with the Sharks last time, and the same applies here. I want to be a part of that, winning every week. That’s my motivation to be here, to be at a hungry club.

“There are doubters, but that’s football and it’s the way it is. If they weren’t saying that, they’d be saying something else.

“It comes with the territory, I know that. There’s only one way to silence the critics and that’s with performances on the field. I’m going to get out there, play well and nobody will say anything then.

“I haven’t watched enough games to say what they lack, but I can speak personally on what I can bring, which is energy, effort and hunger to win every game. That’s what I’ve built my career on.”