German international Jimmy Keinhorst admits he is on a steep learning curve as he aims to achieve his dream of playing for Leeds Rhinos in Super League.
Keinhorst – who is unavailable for Sunday’s final pre-season game at Whitehaven – will be one of the over-age players in Rhinos’ under-20s this year, after signing a part-time contract.
Under-20s sides are allowed only three over-age players, so Keinhorst’s opportunities will be limited if any senior men are dropped back into the reserves to regain form or match fitness.
The 21-year-old centre has impressed Leeds’ coaching staff in pre-season games against Co-op Championship opposition at York City Knights and Hunslet Hawks, but knows he has a huge amount of work to do to get anywhere near the senior side.
“I just want to play as many games as I can,” said the Guiseley-based centre, who was signed after a spell as a trialist last term.
“Being one of the over-age players, it will depend on if players drop back from the first team, but I want to progress, keep learning and developing.
“I will see how things develop from there. Obviously the first team seems a long way off at the moment, but ultimately that would be my top goal for the future.
“It’s going to be hard. For me it is like a learning process, but I am in one of the best environments to do that, so hopefully I can keep that going and keep learning.”
Keinhorst is currently in the second year of a sports science degree at Leeds Metropolitan University.
He has a played rugby union for Otley and German team Heidelberg RK, but is putting all his eggs in league’s basket.
“I am committed to rugby league now,” said Keinhorst, who has also represented Germany in the 15-a-side game.
“I have always enjoyed playing both games, I’ve not had a preference but I have kicked on now in rugby league.
“I have not played much serious rugby league, but I have always followed it with supporting Leeds Rhinos all my life.
“I played up at Uni, at Leeds Met and got on the GB students tour to Australia last summer.
“Bob (Pickles, Rhinos’ chief scout) saw a couple of my uni games and got me down to Leeds. I played a few games at the back end of last season and it has gone from there.”
Keinhorst is already in the rugby league record books after he and his three brothers played in the same team for Germany, the most siblings to appear together in an international side.
“We all qualify because of my dad. He is German and he came over here in his 20s,” he said.
“When it all kicked off in 2005 the guy who is trying to develop it over there got in touch with my brothers.
“My older brothers played a couple of games before I did, because I was only 15/16 then. The first game I played was in the Czech Republic, in one of the European Shield games, when I was 17.
“I have played every year since. I enjoy it, it is a bit of a commitment because there’s no funding and it’s very hard to get the sport off the ground in a country which only has a tiny knowledge of rugby union as it is.
“But a lot of the players who have tried it really enjoy it. There’s been a couple of good games in the summer when they can really give it a good crack against some of the international teams.”
Meanwhile, Jake Normington – who is dual-registered with Keighley Cougars – will take over from Keinhorst in the centres when Rhinos complete their pre-season programme at Whitehaven tomorrow.
England squad member Ben Jones-Bishop – a Grand Final winner last season – will continue on the right-wing and other players with Super League experience in the team are prop Luke Ambler, second-row Jay Pitts and loose-forward Brad Singleton.
But there is no place in the squad for Grand Final winning forward Ian Kirke.
Coach Chris Plume has reshuffled his half-backs with Ollie Olds starting at scrum-half alongside Stevie Ward as Sean Casey moves to hooker.
Rhinos’ youngsters lost at York two weeks ago before beating Hunslet in the Leeds Brewery Lazenby Cup last Sunday.
Whitehaven play in Championship One, a level down from York and Hunslet, but Plume expects his team – who will travel on the day of the game – to face another stiff test.
“It’ll be a really good experience for the players,” said Plume, who added: “I was pleased with how we went at York, we played some good stuff and showed a fair bit of character.
“In the Hunslet game we were a bit low on energy and enthusiasm. We have been working hard on that in training to make sure it doesn’t happen again and hopefully we’ll rectify it on Sunday.”
Rhinos’ senior players will also be in Cumbria this weekend, to attend a fund-raising dinner for the Whitehaven club this evening and tomorrow’s game.
Leeds Rhinos (at Whitehaven): Watson, Jones-Bishop, Normington, Pring, Chisholm, Ward, Olds, Ambler, Casey, D Smith, Pitts, Stott, Singleton. Subs: Nicholson, Syron, Bravo, Leary, Quinlan.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).
Kick-off: Sunday, 2pm.