Matt Prior can fulfil his Leeds Rhinos prophecy after signing new contract

When Matt Prior arrived at Leeds Rhinos in December 2019, he spoke of his desire to complete a hat-trick of career Grand Final victories.

The rugged prop forward, who joined Richard Agar’s side on a two-year deal with an option for a third season, had already won Grand Finals at St George Illawarra Dragons and Cronulla Sharks.

In 2010, Prior came off the bench to help St George to the NRL title with a 32-8 win over Sydney Roosters and in 2016 he was part of the starting Cronulla team who beat Melbourne Storm 14-12.

“I’d love to be able to hold the Super League trophy up at the end of the year – that’s my number one priority and my number-one goal,” Prior said during an interview in the home dressing room at Headingley.

“I thought I would play for a number of years in the NRL and then finish my career in the Super League.

“Experiencing the English culture and living abroad is something that has always appealed to me.

“I’m really glad it has worked out that way and I get the chance to do it, so hopefully we can have a successful year.

“I’ve won two Premierships, which is amazing, and it would be awesome to win a third with the Rhinos.

“Hopefully it comes true. If we work hard, who knows what is out there for us?”

Prior, who also helped St George to the 2011 World Club Challenge win over Wigan at the DW Stadium, did not realise that particular dream and win a Super League title in 2020.

The 34-year-old did, however, help the Rhinos to Challenge Cup glory with a Wembley win over Salford Red Devils last October.

For a club who had fought relegation in the previous two seasons, delivering the game’s oldest and most famous trophy to the Headingley trophy cabinet was not to be sniffed at.

It signalled Leeds’ re-emergence as a serious force and arguably no-one played a greater part in their success than Prior.

During his 16 appearances, Prior never once took a backward step and his formidable ball-carrying, and ball stealing, abilities quickly marked him out as a key figure.

He was named Leeds’ Player of the Year for 2020, which said everything about his talismanic impact on the Rhinos’ young pack.

Prior is one of seven siblings and grew up about an hour south of Sydney in a little coastal town called Thirroul, near Wollongong.

He is particularly close to his mother, who pretty much raised his three brothers and three sisters by herself.

“She gave me every chance to succeed in footie by taking me to games and to trials,” he said.

“She’s a massive supporter of mine and I’m sure she will be watching my games on the TV back home.”

Of course, the coronavirus made lift extremely difficult for overseas players last season, prompting Prior to consider quitting Leeds.

In the end, Prior decided to return to the Rhinos from Australia with his young family and it has paid off so far as he has enjoyed another outstanding season.

In a pack where the likes of Mikolaj Oledzki, Cameron Smith, Morgan Gannon, Sam Walters, Jarrod O’Connor and Tom Holroyd are making their way in the game, Prior’s presence is important.

The news that Prior has now extended his stay until the end of the 2022 season at least was rapturously received at Headingley.

The former New South Wales Origin forward is the Rhinos’ top tackler this season and recently was vice captain for the Combined Nations All Stars team that defeated Shaun Wane’s England side.

“I am really pleased to have got it sorted as it has been going on for a little while now,” said Prior.

“I can focus on my footy now for the remainder of the season. The club offered me another year on top of the additional season I had an option for and I was glad to accept that as there are some exciting times ahead here at the Rhinos.

“It has been tough since we moved to England because of the Covid restrictions but there is light at the end of the tunnel now and I think the best is yet to come for me, my family and the Rhinos in my time at the club.

“I love the club. I have really enjoyed coming to training every day. The boys are a great bunch of blokes to be around and that is massive for me.

“The club as a whole is in a really good spot in terms of the make up of our squad. We have got a lot of good young guys coming through but we’ve also got some good senior blokes too. It’s a good club to be part of and I think it is a good time to be here.”

Could Prior yet realise his dream of winning three titles before his career ends?

Either way, he will have proved a resounding success in the blue and amber.

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