COACH BRIAN McDermott reckons rookie full-back Ashton Golding will have a big influence on Leeds Rhinos’ season, at both ends of the field.
The 20-year-old, wearing the No 1 jersey for the first time in a competitive game, made three try-saving tackles in Rhinos’ 6-4 defeat at St Helens two days ago.
The full-back has big boots to fill, taking over from former Man of Steel Zak Hardaker – who has joined Castleford Tigers on a season-long loan with a view to a permanent move at the end of the year.
But McDermott is confident Golding – who has made only 19 senior appearances for Rhinos, 13 of them in the starting side – can meet the challenge head on.
“We will win some games this year and we will probably win some big games this year and he will probably have a bit of a say in what we do with the ball, offensively,” McDermott predicted.
“But it’s safe to say he was outstanding.
“He had some big moments, catching some high kicks and some of the try-savers were everything you want of a full-back.”
Rhinos were without captain Danny McGuire, who was named in the initial 19-man squad, but did not recover in time from a quad injury suffered in Ryan Hall’s testimonial game against Hull KR last month.
“He was very close [to playing], McDermott reported.
“He may or may not have made a difference, but I thought [half-backs] Liam Sutcliffe and Rob Burrow were very good.
“I thought they managed the game and took the line on. Kicking game was good.”
McDermott said Rhinos came through Thursday’s game with no significant new injuries and he is hopeful McGuire will be available for the trip to promoted Leigh Centurions in six days’ time.
Meanwhile, Rhinos under-19s got their season off to an outstanding start with an impressive 20-14 victory over last year’s Grand Final winners St Helens.
Try scorers for Leeds – in Adrian Morley’s first competitive game as coach – were Dan Waite-Pullan, Harry Boyes and Tom Schofield, who also kicked four goals.