LEEDS RHINOS’ young full-back Ashton Golding insists he hasn’t given up on 2016.
Golding has played for three different teams this year – Rhinos’ under-19s and seniors and Featherstone Rovers on dual-registration – and is aiming to feature at least once for Leeds in the First Utility Qualifiers after being an unused member of the 19-man squad in recent weeks.
The former Stanningley and England academy star was hampered by injuries earlier this season, but says he is happy with the progress he has made and determined to push for a regular first-team spot next year.
“Last year I played four games,” he recalled. “This year it is 10 and three for Featherstone and two for the under-19s.
“I had an injury-riddled season at the start, so to get back into it like I have, I think I have made progress.
“I’m hoping to get another couple of first-team games in.
“I will put my hand up, but everyone’s back fit, raring to go and pushing each other so it is a tough squad to get into.”
Golding admitted this year has been “a different one for me”.
He said: “Last year I had only ever played for Leeds, but this year I’ve been and played for Featherstone and I really enjoyed my time there and it was really different.
“All the boys are a good set of lads and that was a good experience and training with the Rhinos every day, that has been great.
“It has been my first full-time season, so it has been a bag of mixed emotions.”
With just three games remaining in the middle-eights Golding – who turned 20 last Sunday, on the same day as club-mate Jordan Lilley – is already thinking ahead to pre-season and putting pressure on Rhinos’ more experienced backs.
“We have a few games in pre-season – like on Boxing Day – and I am looking forward to those games,” he said.
“I am looking forward to the final three games, then having a big pre-season and going into next year firing.”
Golding has been on the fringe of a first-team recall in recent weeks.
Liam Sutcliffe lasted only half of last Friday’s win over Salford Red Devils before being forced out of the action due to a back problem.
If he fails to make it, Golding would be the obvious choice to take over at full-back against Batley Bulldogs in three days’ time.
And he is one of the few Rhinos players with experience against the Kingstone Press Championship outfit, having been a member of the Featherstone team who won 34-6 at Mount Pleasant two months ago.
“We played them at their place, on their pitch and that’s a completely different ball game,” Golding said.
“But they are a good team, they have got some big names in there.
“And they’ve just beaten Featherstone so they are coming into a bit of form.
“We can’t take them lightly at all.”