They were Grand Final-winning team-mates almost 15 years ago – and on Sunday, Danny Ward and Matt Diskin clash in the capital as head coaches for the first time.
“I’m looking forward to clashing with the old boy on Sunday,” Ward joked to TotalRL ahead of his London side welcoming Diskin’s Batley to Ealing at the weekend.
Together, they were pivotal parts of the Leeds side which won their first Grand Final in October 2004 against Bradford. Diskin would remain at Leeds for several years longer than Ward, who left the Rhinos in 2006. Yet they remain close friends to this day, and Ward admits he is looking forward to locking horns with a man he used to class as a team-mate over a decade ago.
“It’s always a good battle with my mate Disko!” he said. “He’s got them playing some really nicely stuff, and I’m looking forward to clashing with the old boy on Sunday.
“We’ll always be mates, and we catch up whenever we can. Living so far apart and having families – plus both being coaches – it’s difficult these days. But he’s a top bloke, and I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
So would Ward have ever imagined Diskin would progress through the coaching ranks and find himself in charge of a Championship side?
“I don’t think anyone would have backed me or him to become head coaches when we were players!” he laughed.
“But Disko was always a smart footballer, and he knew the game really well so it’s no surprise now to see him where he is. I wish him all the best – but not until after Sunday!”
Sunday’s game will be doubly special for Ward – who grew up a childhood Batley Bulldogs fan.
He said: “It’s a good club, Batley – and it’s the club I supported myself so it’s always a special game when any team I’m involved with faces them. They’re usually the first result I look out for after our game on a weekend, and they’ve got some dangerous players and a good coach.”
Ward will bring in young hooker Sam Davis for Sunday’s game after Jordan Johnstone returned to parent club Widnes – and he will partner England Knights call-up James Cunningham in the hooking department.
Cunningham is the only player from outside Super League to be called into Paul Anderson’s Knights squad – and Ward insists it is great recognition for the player, the club and the Championship.
He said: “Everyone keeps saying that it’s a good competition, and this is proof that the talent is outside of Super League. It’s nice recognition for James, for London Broncos and I guess for the Championship. It shows that the powers that be recognise there are some good players in this league.”