Two-ref system tough adjustment for Titan Joe Greenwood
Gold Coast Titans' England training squad member Joe Greenwood can empathise with the Leeds Rhinos players not happy about the two-referee system being used in their World Club Challenge clash with the Melbourne Storm.
Greenwood, who is set to show the benefits of his first NRL pre-season when he runs out against Brisbane in Saturday night's trial against the Brisbane Broncos in Toowoomba, has added weight to the issue that has embroiled the build-up to the international club showdown at AAMI Park.
The second-rower made his debut for St Helens at 17 and had five seasons in Super League before joining the Titans in a swap deal with Zeb Taia just a fortnight before last season's opening round.
He said adapting to two referees was a massive challenge for him in 2017.
"The biggest thing I had to learn last year was the pace of the game out here and it was a real learning curve, getting used to having a second referee right at the ruck all the time," Greenwood said.
"At home you have a lot more liberty to slow the ball down with one ref, who is taking the defensive line back 10.
"The ruck is probably a second slower back home and you can get back in the defensive line and get set a lot easier.
"It's more physical back home because of that and you can come at the team with the ball. Here the refs are at you to get up quickly [from the tackled player] and often you're only just back in the line when the ball is played.
"I always heard my name being called out [in 2017 ] by the refs because I was so used to being able to lever the ball-carrier down longer in England. That took a while to adapt to and it's something I have been working on."
Greenwood said he would be a keen observer for Melbourne's showdown with Leeds, which will include several players who contested last year's World Cup final. It's only the third time the match has been played in Australia in 25 games since 1987.
His first run-out for the season at Clive Berghofer Stadium will be in front of Broncos and England coach Wayne Bennett who selected veteran Chris Heighington in front of Greenwood and other fringe squad members in the 25-man World Cup squad.
Greenwood admits forcing his way into the English side for the Tri Nations series in England at season's end is an extra incentive for him to realise his potential with the Titans.
However he knows he will have a fight on his hands to establish himself in the Titans' first-choice line-up with Bryce Cartwright joining several up-and-comers in new coach Garth Brennan's squad.
He has put on 5kg during his first full Australian off-season to tip the scales at 110kg. Cartwright is expected to make the lock position his own while Broncos recruit Jai Arrow is another solid addition to the pack. Ryan James is set to switch to the left edge where Greenwood played last season.
"I feel stronger and feel a little heavier but I'll have to get used to carrying that extra weight in the trials," he said.
"I want to really put my head down and have a good season for the Titans; we never had a chance to get much momentum last season because of injuries early in the year.
"Being overlooked for the English squad last year has certainly made me hungrier.
"I want to put my head down, train hard and, you never know, we have a Test series against New Zealand at the end of the season [plus a possible clash with the Kiwis in USA in June]."
Greenwood will start in the second row against the Broncos alongside former Broncos forward Keegan Hipgrave and Cartwright. They wil, while eyes will be more on Queensland Origin winger Corey Oates who will, upon request, come off the bench as a back-rower.
The match kicks off at 6.30pm (Qld time) and will be played over four quarters.