LEEDS RHINOS full-back Ashton Golding could be brought in from the cold this week.
His positional play was excellent and his talk and commitment to the team is always first class. He made some encouraging touches with the ball on the fringes and I was chuffed to bits with what he turned out.Richard Agar
Interim-coach Richard Agar confirmed Golding will be named in Rhinos’ initial squad for Friday’s game at St Helens.
Golding scored a brace of tries in Leeds’ Coral Challenge Cup win over Workington Town two months ago, but has not played in Super League this year.
First-choice full-back Jack Walker remains an injury doubt with a persistent hamstring problem and Tui Lolohea, who has been standing in, is away on international duty with Tonga.
“Ashton will be in the 19,” Agar confirmed. “I will have no hesitation whatsoever to play him if Jack doesn’t come through.”
Agar watched Golding and fellow Rhinos backs Luke Briscoe and Alex Sutcliffe in dual-registration action for Featherstone Rovers when they beat Widnes Vikings 22-4 in the Championship last Sunday.
“Ashton got man of the match,” Agar noted. “His positional play was excellent and his talk and commitment to the team is always first class.
“He made some encouraging touches with the ball on the fringes and I was chuffed to bits with what he turned out.”
“Alex Sutcliffe came up against Anthony Gelling, which is probably one of the bigger challenges in that competition, and he handled that really, really well.
“Defensively he was rock solid, he was aggressive and he scored two tries.
“There were a couple of little errors, but on the whole - in terms of where he’s at at this stage of his development - he looks like a real player.
“Luke was very strong in his carries and - in a good contest and a good standard of a game - I thought our guys were three of the stand-outs for Featherstone. That was really pleasing.”
Walker has missed five of Rhinos’ last six games.
He was set to return against Wigan Warriors last Friday, but failed a late fitness test.
Agar said: “He may be back this week, but handle with care is how we are treating that.
“The last thing we want is him back for a week and then out for a month again.
“We just can’t afford that because we need him and what he brings to our team.
“When he comes back he will be a welcome addition, his energy and the quality of his play at full-back and what he can bring in terms of support and line-breaks, we need him back and we need him back to last.
“He is chomping at the bit, but if he is 95 per cent with a hamstring we need to get him to 100 per cent.”
Rhinos’ medical staff will make a late decision on Ash Handley who sustained an ankle injury against Wigan Warriors last Friday.
Luke Briscoe, who also played in the Cup against Workington, is likely to come in for his first Super League appearance this year if the winger is ruled out.
Agar said stand-off Liam Sutcliffe has passed concussion tests after suffering a bang to the head in last week’s game and will be available for the trip to Saints.