SHOOTING STAR Jordan Lilley is already thinking about how he can be better in 2017.
The Leeds Rhinos half-back insists he can’t afford to sit back after bursting on to the scene this year.
Voted the club’s outstanding young player by Yorkshire Evening Post readers, Lilley’s thoughts turned to next season the moment the 2016 campaign ended.
“I am thinking about how I am going to prepare next year and how I was this year and how next year I can be better,” said the 20-year-old, who scored two tries and 38 goals in 24 appearances during 2016.
“I want to be better physically and mentally and be faster and stronger. They are the things I am going to work on in pre-season.
“It’s the off-season now, but I am not going to mess about – I will have fun and spend a bit of time with my friends and family, but I am going to make sure I eat properly and I’ll be really focused on next year and making sure I come back bigger and better.”
Lilley knows it is hard to back up from a breakthrough year, but is determined to avoid second season syndrome. He stressed: “Next year I just want to be even better than I have been this year.
“It is all about being consistent, I have had a few good performances and then I’ve had a few bad ones.
“It is about making it hard for Mac [coach Brian McDermott] when he is picking the team not to put me in there. I want to kick on and try and cement a place in the team.”
Lilley missed last Thursday’s win over Leigh Centurions, which confirmed top spot in the First Utility Qualifiers, due to a knee injury suffered against Huddersfield Giants four days earlier.
“I was very disappointed I couldn’t play,” he admitted. “Until the day before the game I was meant to be playing, but the knee wasn’t up to running and I couldn’t kick or change direction.
“It was very disappointing, but it’s about coming back next year and being all right to start the season.
“If I’d played I might have pulled something or done something else more serious than already.
“For me it is just about looking after my body and going into this off-season now and coming back next season firing and hopefully achieving some more goals.”
Lilley, who also needed four stitches in a head wound from the game at Huddersfield, is confident the knee problem will not keep him away from training when pre-season begins.
“It’s just a niggle,” he added. “I got direct contact on it at Huddersfield.
“It was twingeing a bit, but it’s nothing too serious. Probably in a couple of weeks I will be all right. I did weights and rehab last week and I will be okay.”
Of the Shooting Star award, Lilley – who saw off competition from Ashton Golding, Brad Singleton and Josh Walters – said: “I’m really pleased.
“It was very unexpected. I was up against three others who could have got it as well and have been good all year, so it’s a good accolade for me,” said the Stanningley product.