Leeds Rhinos: Spell as hooker made me a better player says Clarkson

Chris Clarkson.

Chris Clarkson.

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A SPELL as emergency hooker has made Chris Clarkson a better player, the Leeds Rhinos man believes.

With Paul Aiton and Rob Burrow both injured, Clarkson played three games as Rhinos’ starting hooker before teenage No 9 Robbie Ward made his debut against Hull last week.

Clarkson was praised by coach Brian McDermott for the way he filled in at acting-half and the player insisted he will accept any challenge thrown at him if it means keeping his place in the side.

“It’s another string to my bow,” Clarkson said ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Warrington Wolves.

“I think I am a pretty versatile player, I can play anywhere in the pack.

“I enjoyed it at hooker, but I am happy to be back at my normal position of loose-forward and a little bit of prop the other night. I am just happy to be in the middle doing the hard work and setting a platform for our good backs.”

Clarkson reckons his long-term future could be in the front-row. Rhinos’ two leading props, Kylie Leuluai and Jamie Peacock, are both 36 and Clarkson said: “Mac is trying to turn me into a prop over the next few years, I think!

“I am happy playing wherever in the pack. As long as I am getting game time I am all right.

“I just want to keep improving, keep doing the strong carries and running about the field tackling. Anywhere in the middle of the field I am pleased with.”

Tomorrow’s game is set to be Clarkson’s ninth successive appearance and he added: “I’m playing most weeks.

“I think I have only missed two weeks and that’s showing in my game on the field. I am improving and this year I am going pretty well, so hopefully I can keep that up and keep getting game time.

“Over the last couple of years I have been pretty frustrated with my performances, but I’ve tried to turn it around this year.

“I have worked on a few things and cut out some negatives from my game. That’s showing now and hopefully I can keep it going.”

Ward, who took over as starting hooker last week, has retained his place in the initial 19-man squad for tomorrow and Clarkson reckons he has a bright future in the game.

“For a young 18-year-old and someone of his size as well, he did very well,” Clarkson said.

“He did some pretty good tackles in the middle and he helped the forwards out, he made some good carries from dummy-half and all the lads were really pleased with him.

“I think he enjoyed it, so hopefully he might get a few more games this year.”

Rhinos will be protecting a one-point lead at the top of the table when they visit Warrington and Clarkson is predicting another testing evening.

“We’ve had a pretty tough run lately,” he said.

“Warrington will be another tough team to beat, but we will go out there, play like we have been doing and hopefully keep going how we are and getting the wins.”

Rhinos under-16s are away to Featherstone Rovers tonight (7pm). The under-19s take on Warrington in a curtain-raiser tomorrow (5.30pm).

Brian McDermott.

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