Leeds Rhinos prop Oledzki's on track to topple his season's goals
CHAMPIONS LEEDS Rhinos may be sitting outside Betfred Super League's all-important top-four, but experience gained by some of their young players has been a major positive from the season so far.
Nineteen-year-old prop Mikolaj Oledzki is not a member of Rhinos’ top 25-man squad, but the win over Hull KR two days ago was his ninth appearance of 2018.
Having played in eight successive games, Oledzki admitted he is “grateful for all the opportunities I am getting at the moment”.
The England Academy star is developing a reputation as one of the competition’s most promising young forwards, and he said: “I am trying to grab my opportunities with both hands and make the most of them.
“I feel more and more comfortable playing and I am finding myself in the team.
“I am really enjoying my rugby at the moment and hoping it carries on.”
Oledzki made three appearances for Rhinos last year and played 20 times during a loan spell at Bradford Bulls.
He added: “This season was all about topping what I did last season.
“I played at Bradford last year, but this season I wanted to prove what I can do against tough opposition. I hope that’s what I’ve done.”
Despite more than 30 senior games, Oledzki is still a rugby league rookie.
Born in Poland, Oledzki was nine when he and his family moved to England and he did not start playing rugby league – at East Leeds and then Hunslet Warriors – until he was a teenager.
He has made rapid progress, but insists he is still learning every day.
“I have played against the toughest packs in the comp’ this season,” he said.
“That gives you a lot of confidence in yourself.
“Going into every game I feel more and more confident and I feel like I can do a good job for the team.”
Oledzki’s latest game was the 20-18 win at KCOM Craven Park.
Rhinos had to dig deep to record only their third win in seven Super League matches, hitting back from 18-12 behind at half-time and withstanding heavy pressure after going two points ahead with 25 minutes to go.
“We’ve had a few tough games,” Oledzki said.
“We had really good parts of the game, then we just let ourselves down in certain parts and made it hard for ourselves.
“But I think the work ethic and the commitment we have to ourselves – when we attack and defend – is there.
“I think we are in a good place, it is just putting all things together and putting that into action.”
Hull KR are third from bottom, with just three wins so far this season, but Oledzki said results this year have proved no side can be taken lightly.
“They played some good rugby and really challenged us,” he observed. “They have got a lot of good players, but I think we showed we are willing to work for each other and we defended really well.”