YOUNG FULL-BACK Ashton Golding has been awarded Leeds Rhinos’ coveted No 1 jersey for the 2017 season, writes PETER SMITH.
The 20-year-old takes over from former Man of Steel Zak Hardaker, who is on the verge of a move away from Rhinos.
Hardaker is not included in Rhinos’ full-time squad, which was announced today.
Rhinos’ top 20 includes just three changes from last year, with James Segeyaro and Brett Ferres moving up to numbers nine and 19 in place of departed duo Beau Falloon and Mitch Achurch. Jack Ormondroyd will wear No 23 and fellow recruit Cory Aston takes the No 26 jersey.
Rhinos have named a 30-man squad, five more than usual, with an average age of 25.
Nineteen of the 30 are products of Rhinos’ youth system and only England academy international Mikolaj Oledzki has yet to play a senior game.
Rhinos coach Brian McDermott said: “One of the aspects we looked at from last season was the size of our full-time squad.
“We have decided to expand that group for 2017. This will have an impact on the numbers we can work with on a day-to-day basis during the season.
“Ashton has been given the opportunity to make the number one shirt his own long-term and I look forward to seeing how he develops next season.
“Cameron Smith, Mikolaj Oledzki and Josh Jordan-Roberts all still qualify to play under-19s rugby while our partnership with Featherstone Rovers will allow us to give players not involved with the first team on a week-to-week basis the chance to play on dual-registration if necessary.”
Rhinos’ 2017 squad is: No 1 Ashton Golding (last year Zak Hardaker), 2 Tom Briscoe, 3 Kallum Watkins, 4 Joel Moon, 5 Ryan Hall, 6 Danny McGuire, 7 Rob Burrow, 8 Keith Galloway, 9 James Segeyaro (Beau Falloon), 10 Adam Cuthbertson, 11 Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 12 Carl Ablett, 13 Stevie Ward, 14 Liam Sutcliffe, 15 Brett Delaney, 16 Brad Singleton, 17 Mitch Garbutt, 18 Jimmy Keinhorst, 19 Brett Ferres (Mitch Achurch), 20 Anthony Mullally, 21 Josh Walters, 22 Ash Handley, 23 Jack Ormondroyd (Golding), 24 Jordan Baldwinson, 25 Jordan Lilley, 26 Cory Aston (Ferres), 27 Cameron Smith (Sam Hallas), 28 Mikolaj Oledzki (Cameron Smith), 29 Josh Jordan-Roberts (Luke Briscoe), 30 Sam Hallas (Segeyaro).