'He could be one of the best ever': Leeds Rhinos legend Barrie McDermott's tribute to Mikolaj Oledzki on eve of 100th game

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
England star Mikolaj Oledzki could become one of the game’s great front-rowers, Leeds Rhinos legend Barrie McDermott reckons.

Oledzki joined Rhinos late in McDermott’s time as youth boss and will make his 100th senior appearance for the club in tomorrow’s game at Hull, aged just 23.

The Polish-born powerhouse is Rhinos’ reigning player of the year and was the only Leeds man in the England side which beat Combined Nations All Stars last month.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Having made a try scoring debut as a substitute in a 64-28 Challenge Cup defeat of Doncaster at Headingley on April 21, 2017, he has played for England at academy, Knights and Test level and was a Wembley winner two years ago.

Mikolaj Oledzki. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.Mikolaj Oledzki. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
Mikolaj Oledzki. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“It has flown by,” Mcdermott said of Oledzki’s 99 games for Rhinos.

“The impact he has made on those games isn’t minimal, he hasn’t been anonymous and I think he could go down as one of the best ever.

“He has got some things he needs to learn, but I don’t think he is anywhere near his best yet; I think the potential he has got, we won’t see the best of Mikolaj until he’s in his mid- to late-20s and he has learned his trade.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Oledzki and his family moved to England when he was eight and he was a teenager when he first played rugby league.

Barrie McDermott terrorises the Hull defence during his Rhinos heyday, in 2004. Picture by Steve Riding.Barrie McDermott terrorises the Hull defence during his Rhinos heyday, in 2004. Picture by Steve Riding.
Barrie McDermott terrorises the Hull defence during his Rhinos heyday, in 2004. Picture by Steve Riding.
Read More
It’s a make-or-break fortnight for Leeds Rhinos - Peter Smith

McDermott reckons physical attributes, attitude and willingness to learn have contributed to his rapid success.

Recalling his first meeting with the youngster, McDermott said: “Like all kids that came into the building, you’d have a look at his background and his genetics and have an idea about nature and nurture, how they are brought up and that sort of thing.

“His mum was a rower - very athletic and powerful - so that was a good sign and he was just a great kid, very respectful.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Those were the things I noticed when I first met him and when you watch him play, he wants to damage people.

“He is running to bust the line and he has got bad intentions when he carries the ball and it’s the same when he’s defending - his job is to hit people and do some damage in the same action.”

McDermott also believes Oledzki has benefitted from “good people around him”.

He said: “JP [former Leeds and England prop Jamie Peacock] is in the same building.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“He has still got the knowledge of watching JP play, but obviously if he can tap into some of the stuff JP learned he will go a long way.

“He has always been very respectful with me and you can see he wants to be here and wants to make an impact.”

Rhinos have struggled for much of Oledzki’s time in the first team, which coincided with the end of the golden generation which dominated the game for more than a decade.

“Mik can hold his head up high,” McDermott added.

“In a difficult period in the club’s history, he is contributing and contributing on a regular basis.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.