A YEAR at Featherstone Rovers will boost Alex Foster’s chances of breaking into Leeds Rhinos’ first team squad, the back-row forward says.
Foster is under contract to Leeds for 2016 but will spend next year at the Kingstone Press Championship promotion hopefuls, alongside fellow Rhinos Thomas Minns, Jordan Baldwinson and Mason Tonks.
Foster, 21, played eight games as a substitute for Rhinos in 2013 before moving to London Broncos on a season-long loan.
He made 20 appearances for the capital outfit, but insisted he doesn’t see moving into the Championship as a step down.
Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington has said all four of the players joining Featherstone are playing for a place in Rhinos’ 25-man squad for 2016 and Foster said: “I see it as part of my development and so do the rest of the boys.
“It is a decision we had to make. With dual-registration not everybody can play for Hunslet.
“They will be sending some players there next year, so ultimately to go over and play a season at Fev will be good for us all, playing competitive rugby regularly. I don’t see it as a disappointment at all, I see it as an exciting prospect. All four of us are really excited to take on the challenge. It will be a big challenge for all of us to get into the starting team and then to try and keep playing consistently.”
Foster, who was the first product of the Wetherby Bulldogs club to play in Super League, said he is determined to be part of Rhinos’ plans in 12 months’ time: “We are all looking for that spot in 2016. A few changes to the first team will be happening around that period. We just want to go to Fev and play consistently well and show Leeds what we are capable of and what we can bring back to Leeds in 2016.”
London won just once last year – at home to Rhinos in August – but Foster insisted: “I think I am a better player now than when I went down to London.
“Obviously it wasn’t a great season for London. We had many, many defeats, but what me and the other two (Minns and James Duckworth) learned there, we could never have learned playing a few games for Leeds, perhaps half an hour per game.
“It was really getting stuck in the deep end and we learned a lot of things we wouldn’t have learned at Leeds. I think I’ve definitely developed as a player having played a big role in a Super League team, which is more than I ever expected.
“I am feeling confident coming into next year and going into 2016 as well.”
The new season will be a huge one for Rovers, who are aiming for promotion into First Utility Super League.
The top-four teams on the Championship table after 23 rounds will go into a new-style play-offs against Super League’s bottom quartet. The four teams which emerge best from that mini-competition will take the Super League starting line the following year and Foster said he would love to be part of that, after playing for relegated London Broncos this year.
“The aim is to finish top,” Foster said.
“We definitely want to be in the top-four places to get into the second tier of the Super Eights, so it is very exciting stuff.
“It’s chance to play against the top Championship teams, one of which I was at last year. That’ll be very exciting and we’ll be playing Bradford as well, so it’s going to be a very interesting competition.
“I am hoping to get plenty of game time. I think that was key to my development last season and if I can keep going and keep consistently playing and consistently playing well I will be very happy and very confident for 2016.”