Leeds Rhinos and England ace Carl Ablett is beginning to wonder if he will ever get to play an entire game in the pack.
Ablett is keen to establish himself as a back-rower, but has made many of his 168 senior appearances for Rhinos as a makeshift centre, including three Grand Final wins.
He was expected to switch into the forwards this year following the arrival of three-quarter Joel Moon – but found himself back at centre in Rhinos’ opening Super League win over Hull after winger Joe Vickery’s injury led to a team reshuffle.
One option for Sunday’s game at Castleford Tigers would be for Ablett to start in the centre with Kallum Watkins on the wing, though coach Brian McDermott has indicated that’s not his favoured choice.
Ablett is hoping he can build on the 20 minutes he got in the pack at the start of last week’s game, but admitted he will play anywhere he can to make a contribution to the team.
“It seems a bit like I’m destined to play in the centres,” he said.
“There’s not much I can do about it, it is just one of those things.
“I was feeling really comfortable in the first half and I really enjoy the back-row. It was a bit disappointing, but that’s the job I had to do and we’ll see what happens.
“There are a few options for this week and hopefully Joe isn’t out for too long.”
Ablett added: “It is not up to me where I play, but I would prefer to be in the back-row.
“I enjoy getting involved and I felt comfortable in the back-row (last week).
“It is a bit different to a role in the centre, you don’t get as much ball and defending is a bit different too, but you do what you have to do.”
Ablett was one of Super League’s most in-form centres last year, after moving there when Zak Hardaker switched to full-back.
He was runner-up to skipper Kevin Sinfield in the voting for the Harry Sunderland Trophy as Grand Final man of the match, but insisted he is still learning the role.
Ablett said: “The role of centre is probably not as easy as some people reckon it looks. There’s a bit of timing there, putting your winger away or do you take it yourself?
“There’s some tough stuff in defence, getting out to the edges to defend out there.
“It is a position I enjoy, but I also enjoy getting stuck in a little more like you do in the back-row.”
Ablett’s versatility has caught the attention of England coach Steve McNamara and he played in all three of last year’s autumn internationals.
With the World Cup coming up at the end of the year he admits it is an important string to his bow.
He said: “In the modern game you need to be able to interchange and play in a few positions.
“Looking forward with England, to be part of the squad, you probably need to be able to play two positions. I will continue to try to perform wherever I play.”
Rhinos under-19s face Tigers at Stanningley tonight (7.30pm).
Meanwhile, the Rugby Football League has unveiled a new title sponsor after Kingstone Press Cider agreed to back the Championship and Championship One for the next two seasons.
Kingstone Press are the latest company to join Rugby League’s expanded partnership and follow Heinz, Foxy Bingo, Rhino Rugby, Marriott Hotels and Tetley’s.