ASPIRING Leeds Rhinos full-back Ashton Golding admits bulking up and dealing with “pressure” are two of his main priorities next season.
The youngster has earned the No 1 jersey following England star Zak Hardaker’s switch to Castleford Tigers and hopes to make his mark in the forthcoming Super League campaign.
Golding – relatively diminutive for a full-back – scored two tries in 13 games for Leeds last term but is looking to now make the position his own.
Asked what areas he is looking to work on, the 20-year old said: “Probably just handling the pressure a bit better.
“When times got tough and the pressure started hitting, it got to a point where early on in the season I started to crack.
“So, I’ve been working on handling that pressure, working on getting bigger, getting stronger, being able to predominantly win tackles and things of that nature so the physical side of it really and just developing.
“With Zak gone, there’s always going to be an opportunity there but it’s just that – there’s nothing set in stone.
“I’ve got to earn it but there’s not many more people that would give their all like I will for this shirt.
“If it’s good enough happy days but I won’t leave myself short.”
Golding hopes to get the nod for Leeds’ first friendly against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
“If selected, I’m looking forward to that on Boxing Day first and foremost,” he said.
“It’ll be good to see where I’m at, what progression I’ve made and where I need to be heading.
“The season’s just around the corner now; we’ve already done six weeks so another six weeks and we’ll be just about there.”
For all it was a difficult time for Leeds last season, their young players having to battle at the bottom of the table for most of the campaign, the ex-Stanningley youngster believes it will leave them in good stead.
Golding said: “It’s brought something out in me I didn’t know I had – a strong resilience, calm head and given me experience. As a young player you need experience and what more can you get than going through what we did last season.
“It can only do us good and keep us strong. We’re tight as a bunch.”
As for the getting the prestigious No 1 jersey and following in the footsteps of players like Brent Webb, Richie Mathers and Hardaker in the summer era, he said: “I thought they were joking at first.
“It’s one of those where I thought it was a bit of a laugh.
“It didn’t sink in, still hasn’t sunk in yet and won’t sink in until I actually put the shirt on.
“I’m just really looking forward to doing that, having that moment with myself and my family, getting around all the boys – they look after me – and they’ll be super proud as am I.
“I just need to crack on now. As far as I’m concerned I’ve got a mountain to climb with this but I’m willing to do that.”
Stand-off Liam Sutcliffe claimed the full-back role for the back end of 2015 and so, depending on coach Brian McDermott’s plans, he could rival him for a starting spot.
Golding conceded: “Nothing’s set in stone.
“I’ve only been given an opportunity – I haven’t been given it as ‘this is you now’.
“I take it as we push each other and we do. It’s really competitive which is good. It can only lift our standards.”