Half-back Jordan Lilley is willing to play the waiting game when it comes to Leeds Rhinos first-team selection, and reckons he’s a better player for his loan stint at the Bulls. Peter Smith reports.
SHOOTING STAR Jordan Lilley is hoping for a Leeds Rhinos recall, but insists he is prepared to be patient.
The 20-year-old half-back made 24 senior appearances last year and was voted Rhinos’ most impressive young player by Yorkshire Evening Post readers.
He has spent most of this season on loan at Bradford Bulls and his only game for Leeds was the 66-10 drubbing at Castleford Tigers in March.
Rhinos recalled Lilley for the Easter period, but, though he was in the 19-man squad for the wins over Hull and Widnes Vikings, he had to watch from the sidelines.
Lilley is again in contention for tonight’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup fifth-round tie at home to Kingstone Press League One side Doncaster and said, though it has been frustrating not playing, he understands the situation.
“It is tough over the Easter period and I got called back in case anyone got injured,” Lilley said. “Luckily enough that didn’t happen and it meant I didn’t get a shot to play. Obviously it’s good that we’ve got a fit squad and the boys are playing very well at the minute.
“Moony [Joel Moon] is playing at half at the minute, who’s outstanding. It is something for me to look at and see how he’s playing and the running game he’s got and try and put that into my game.”
Lilley knows time is on his side and he stressed: “I am very patient, I will just bide my time and when the time comes for me to play that’s when I will step up and hopefully do a job for the team.
“I just want to play at the end of the day, whether that’s out on loan at Bradford or here or somewhere else, just to get that game time.
“You are only going to get better by playing week-in and week-out and getting consistency in your game. For me it is just about playing, wherever it is.”
Lilley reckons the experience of playing in the Championship – and directing his team around the field – has been invaluable.
“It is a really good club, Bradford,” he said. “The people around it are really good. They have been through a lot and they are getting back on their feet now. It is good to be around the place. The boys made me welcome and I enjoyed my time while I was there. If that opportunity arises again and he [Rhinos coach Brian McDermott] wants me to go back I will take the opportunity with both hands.”
Lilley added: “I’ve been playing every week and that’s vital – the consistency part. That’s how you get better. It is no good sitting in the stands watching, so for me it’s about going to Bradford and trying to perfect my game so when I do come back to Leeds I can take it on to the field here. I have really benefited from Bradford. I have been learning from the likes of Geoff and Leigh [coaches Geoff Toovey and Leigh Beattie] and Leon Pryce. Everyone knows what Leon has done in the game. Learning little things and little subtleties off him has been really good for me.”
Sam Hallas and Mikolaj Oledzki are also in tonight’s squad after time with Bradford. Oledzki is in contention to make his Rhinos debut and Lilley said: “He is outstanding. He is a big human being, he is a bit like Anthony Mullally with the size of him.
“He carries the ball strong and he was really good at Bradford.
“He is two years below me and he is skittling people in the Championship.
“At 18 years old that’s a big step. I am sure if he gets a go he will do a really good job. I am looking forward to seeing him get a shot and hopefully securing a place in the team.”
If selected, tonight will be the second time Lilley has played against Doncaster this year. He was a member of a second-string Rhinos side which lost 35-34 at Keepmoat Stadium in a pre-season game three months ago. Rhinos led 30-12 at the break before being sunk by a last-gasp drop goal and Lilley has respect for the part-timers.
“It is going to be tough,” he predicted.
“They have got an experienced pack, people who have played in Super League.
“They are going to be no push-overs. We are expecting them to come out firing. I know it was an under-19s team when we played them, but they are a very strong team and we will have to shut them down early.
“We have to complete some sets, put them in the corners and try and tire their big forwards out in the middle. Rugby league is about completion – if you don’t complete and get to the end of your sets teams will punish you.
“We saw that on Monday with Widnes. The second half from us wasn’t good enough. We were at about 53 per cent completion and you can’t expect to be winning games when your completions are that low.
“We have to complete our sets and stick with them. They have nothing to lose, they are going to come out all guns blazing and we will have to ride the storm and go from there.”
This is not Lilley’s first Challenge Cup experience of Doncaster. In 2005 his amateur team Stanningley – then coached by Rhinos forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan – were beaten 54-6 at Keepmoat Stadium in the same competition.
“We all went – all the Stanningley lot,” Lilley recalled. “It was a big trip out. Obviously we got pumped by them, but we didn’t get nilled – we scored, which was pretty good – and it was a good day out.”
Meanwhile, Rhinos under-19s play London Broncos at Stanningley tomorrow (12.30pm).
Leeds Rhinos: from Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Galloway, Cuthbertson, Delaney, Singleton, Garbutt, Walters, Handley, Ormondroyd, Baldwinson, Lilley, Oledzki, Hallas, Walker.
Doncaster: from Aizue, Barnett, Braham, Carr, Castle, Cross, Doherty, England, Hedges, Heil, Howden, Jones-Bishop, Kesik, Martin, Muranka, Scott, Sheriff, Tali, Wright.
Referee: Chris Campbell (Widnes).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.