English greats give Garbutt guide to Wembley
Former Broncos and Storm forward Mitch Garbutt is leaning on the vast experience of two of the greatest players England has produced to calm his nerves ahead of the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
Garbutt joined Leeds mid-season having made just three appearances for the Broncos and now finds himself, along with a host of other former NRL stars, preparing for one of the most iconic rugby league fixtures on the planet.
Close to 80,000 tickets have already been sold for the final of the English knockout competition that was first conducted in 1897 where defending champions Leeds will meet the rank outsiders from Hull KR.
For Australian players such as Garbutt and Adam Cuthbertson who are playing in their first Challenge Cup Final, there is the danger that the occasion can become overwhelming but Garbutt said they have been given an insight into what to expect from club legends Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock.
With more than 500 games between them for Leeds, Sinfield and Peacock will be making their final appearances at Wembley Stadium and Garbutt said their experience and that of the other senior Rhinos will be a massive advantage against a team that hasn't made it to the final for close to 30 years.
"You've got Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield who have been to those kind of games many times and they've just said that it is pretty breathtaking to run out like that," Garbutt said of what lays ahead of him.
"It's just a massive atmosphere and you've got to try and shut it out. You embrace it but without taking too much into it, they said. Embrace the atmosphere but try to focus on your role."
Just days after leaving Australia in June for the north of England with wife Ruth and three-month-old daughter Jordan, Garbutt was given an immediate taste of the atmosphere at English grounds when Leeds hosted St Helens at Headingley.
But the 26-year-old Wests Newcastle junior said it wasn't until they met St Helens again two weeks later in the semi-final that he got a sense for what the Challenge Cup meant to the club and its fans.
"I played St Helens in my first game here and that was a big occasion and then two weeks later we played them in the Challenge Cup semi-final and just how the Rhinos treated that game and what could potentially come from that... They were hyped up about it and they were ready to go," Garbutt told NRL.com.
"I kind of gathered from that what kind of game it would be.
"It's a massive deal and Leeds are so excited about it. Because they have been there before all the players know how big a stage it is.
"A lot of players have experienced the heartache of losing but they also were lucky enough to win it last year so they know the ups and downs of what the day can be.
"Everyone at the club is really excited about what's going to happen on Saturday and what kind of game we're going to be playing in."
Contracted to Leeds until the end of the 2017 season, Garbutt said given his experience in the first two months he would welcome the opportunity to stay on even longer.
"I'm really enjoying it and hopefully we can stay on longer," he said.
"Everything's going really good and we're enjoying everything that Leeds has to offer.
"The club's been great and we've settled in really well so we're really happy with how everything has turned out for us."
The Challenge Cup Final between Leeds and Hull KR will be broadcast on Fox Sports from midnight on Saturday night.