Leeds Rhinos teenager Ashton Golding wants to continue his rugby league education under transfer-listed Zak Hardaker.
The 19-year-old is understudy to Hardaker, who looks set for a move to Australia’s NRL, after the Rhinos slapped a £300,000 price tag on the current Man of Steel.
But Golding believes he can only prosper learning his craft alongside Hardaker, and is in no rush to end his Headingley apprenticeship and take over the full-back jersey on a permanent basis.
“Zak is a great full-back,” said Golding. “He has taught me so much, and he’s still got loads to teach me. I need to get those lessons fast.
“I feel my defensive game has picked up, that’s all thanks to Zak. We go out after training to train.
“We train at opposite ends to each other, but after training we come together and analyse and evaluate.
“Then we will go and train a bit more, working on defensive aspects and linking up behind the backs.
“Zak is a great player and you just have to try and learn from what he does.”
Hardaker has been linked with several NRL clubs – although Canberra Raiders have denied interest in the full-back – and the hefty transfer fee could be a stumbling block.
Golding is the obvious replacement for Hardaker, but the teenager – who hopes to return from an ankle injury for tomorrow’s Super League match with Salford Red Devils – is refusing to look long-term.
And he said the Rhinos players only learned of Hardaker – currently sidelined with a shoulder injury – being transfer-listed when the club made an announcement on Saturday.
“Zak hasn’t gone yet, and he’s not going anytime soon I wouldn’t think,” said Golding
“So he’s going to be here, fully committed to the cause, and we are all behind him.
“We didn’t find out until the day it was announced so it was a bit of a surprise, but we have to just remain 100 per cent focussed on the next game and where our season is going.
“We can’t have distractions.
“Honestly, I can’t look that far ahead at the moment.
“We are not in the strongest position, so we need to just get our heads together.”
That is an under-statement, with champions Leeds bottom of Super League, just three wins from their opening 17 games.
Golding has been wearing a protective boot this week to safeguard his ankle, but is refusing to rule out a surprise return tomorrow.
“Fitness-wise, I am not looking too bad. I had positive news, it’s nothing too serious or sinister.
“I just need to keep it (the boot) on for a bit longer for precautionary reasons, so no more knocks and tears can happen.
“It’s my ankle, we are just looking to get it right as soon as possible. It happened at the Warrington game.
“Salford are always tough to play, they have a lot of skill in their team. We have our work cut out for us.
“But at home, Headingley, we have got our own fans supporting us, it’s the best time to start turning our season around.
“Considering everything that is going on, to get 14,000 fans turning up, screaming, chanting, clapping all the way through, never giving up, was unreal.
“It was fantastic and just shows how good the Rhinos supporters are when it matters the most.”