ENGLAND ACADEMY hero Ashton Golding has agreed a new four-year deal which will keep him at Leeds Rhinos until the end of the 2018 season.
The pacy 18-year-old full-back was named man of the match in Rhinos under-19s’ recent defeat to Australian Schoolboys and in England Academy’s Test win over the same opponents.
Rhinos’ reigning under-19s player of the year, he made his Super League debut off the bench in Leeds’ defeat at London Broncos last season and is set to start in the Tetley’s Festive Challenge against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Boxing Day.
Golding, who is studying for ‘A’ Levels in PE and Applied Sciences and BTEC Sport at Priesthorpe School in Leeds, said: “It has been an ambition of mine since I was very young to play for the club I love and now I will get the chance to do that.
“It is hard to juggle school and training, but I am managing so far. My confidence has grown a lot this season and I can now try things that previously I would not have done.
“To make my debut last year, the experience I gained from that was invaluable. I then took that knowledge with me into the rest of the season with the under-19s and I think it improved my game.”
Boxing Day will be Golding’s first game since the win over Australia at Leigh – when he was identified by the tourists’ coaching staff as a potential future star.
“I won’t lie, it was the best feeling in the world beating Australia,” he said. “Any one of us could have been the man of the match, but I was just happy to be part of the win.”
Golding is behind England squad member Zak Hardaker in the race to be Rhinos’ long-term full-back, but insisted that gives him chance to learn off one of the best.
“Zak has taught me a lot already and there is still so much I can learn off him and I am looking forward to doing that,” he said. “I have grown up here and I just want to be part of something special at the Rhinos.”
He added: “Jamie Jones-Buchanan went to the same primary and secondary school as me and we came through the same amateur club at Stanningley so I am just following in his footsteps.
“People like Jamie, Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire and Zak Hardaker are all players I look up to and will try to emulate in the years ahead.”
Golding is highly-rated by former Leeds’ youth boss Barrie McDermott and coach Brian McDermott enthused: “It is great news that a local talent like Ashton has committed his long-term future to the club.
“As was seen against the Australians, he is a world class talent but, most importantly, he is keeping his feet on the ground and is keen to learn and develop.
“It is another example of the outstanding job our scholarship and Academy set up under Simon Bell and Chris Plume are doing in bringing through quality players and long may that continue.”
Meanwhile, two former Leeds players will be remembered during a minute’s silence before the Boxing Day game.
Neil James, who has died aged 52, began his career with Castleford and is best known as a Championship and Challenge Cup winner with Halifax in the 1980s, but played five games for Leeds during a three-season spell at the start of the 1990s.
Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington, who signed James for Sheffield Eagles from Leeds, said: “It is always desperately sad to lose someone so young.
“I remember Neil as a powerful, strong-running second-row forward.”
Rhinos are also mourning prop Joe Anderson, who was a member of their Challenge Cup-winning team against Barrow at Wembley in 1957.
Anderson joined Leeds from Castleford - in exchange for Alan Horsfall - and made his debut against Featherstone Rovers on January 15, 1955.
He made 91 appearances, scoring four tries, before moving to Featherstone in 1958. Possibly his most crucial contribution was in the 1957 semi-final against Whitehaven, when he snatched possession to set up Jeff Stevenson’s winning drop goal.