TEENAGE PROP Mikolaj Oledzki reckons he will be ready to step up to Super League for Leeds Rhinos when he gets the call.
The 18-year-old, who was born in Gdansk, Poland, has been named in Rhinos’ initial 19-man squad for tonight’s derby at home to Wakefield Trinity.
He was recalled from a loan spell at Bradford Bulls, having featured as a substitute in all six of their Kingstone Press Championship fixtures this season.
The England academy prop had never played a senior game before joining Bulls, but reckons the short-term move was good preparation for the jump to Leeds’ first team.
“I have been getting some good quality game time under my belt,” said Oledzki, who is a product of the Hunslet Warriors community club.
“Even though it’s Championship it is still good experience. The gap between academy and Super League is much bigger than Championship and Super League.
“It is a step forward for me as a player and it’s more beneficial for me to play against men and against good players. You do face some very good sides in the Championship, that challenge you, so I am very happy with how it has been going.
“I have loved it [at Bradford] and the atmosphere at the stadium. It is just a different environment to the academy. It is more professional and you get to be in an environment where you’ve got players who have played Super League and represented their country. You get to learn on the job, from other players.”
Oledzki was drafted into Leeds’ 19 as cover after prop Brad Singleton was banned for six matches earlier this week.
Front-rower Keith Galloway remains on the long-term injury list, Jack Ormondroyd suffered a knee problem playing for Featherstone Rovers last week and Mitch Garbutt (pectoral muscle) has missed the past two games, though he is in tonight’s squad.
At 6ft 3 and 16st 7lbs, Oledzki has the size to stand his ground in the elite competition, whether his opportunity comes tonight or later.
“I have faced some big lads throughout the last few weeks,” he said.
“It does challenge you, physically as well as mentally.
“You have to be confident and it has boosted my confidence playing against men.”
Oledzki admits he is still learning the sport having been a late starter in rugby league, but reckons the experience at Bradford has also helped with his knowledge of the game.
“We played at Hull KR in the first game,” he recalled.
“Because I hadn’t played any games at that level I had to get into the game, I had to settle in.
“You do get a lot thrown at you during the game and under fatigue some players might struggle with decision-making and things like that.
“But as I’ve progressed into the season I have picked it up on the way. You learn from other players and you learn from your mistakes.
“Everyone makes mistakes, it is how you bounce back from them and how you improve from them.
“I think I have improved as a player, even though it has been a short time.
“My game-awareness and how I play is more intelligent than it was before.”
He added: “That’s what it is all about, improving and developing as a player so if I am needed then I am ready to go.
“That is the goal I set myself, to be ready physically and mentally to play in Super League and at the speed they play at.
“It is much faster than the games I’ve been playing in.”