TEENAGER CALLUM McLelland is poised to make his Betfred Super League debut tomorrow, against his former and hometown club.
McLelland made his first start for Leeds Rhinos in last Saturday’s Coral Challenge Cup defeat at Bradford Bulls and has retained his place in the initial 19 to face visitors Castleford Tigers. The 19-year-old came through Tigers’ academy system before leaving for a brief spell in rugby union two years ago and admitted: “I have always wanted to play against Cas.
“If I ever get a chance to play against them it’s special, it’s my hometown club and it would be exciting to see some familiar faces and play against people I trained with for years.
“I am close friends with people like Jake Trueman who was my half-back partner growing up, when I first came into the full-time system. To play against him would be good – and to test myself as well and see how far I have come since I was there.”
McLelland knows if everything had gone to plan for Leeds this year he would still be learning his trade in the academy or on dual-registration.
“The way we are going at the minute, being a young lad at Leeds – I know it sounds bad – it can be exciting because you know your chance isn’t far around the corner,” he said. “Luckily my chance has come as fast as I wanted it to really. Now I am just looking to cement my place in the squad and if I can keep playing well hopefully I will keep my spot.”
McLelland’s first start for Leeds turned from a dream into a nightmare. He scored Leeds’ second try against Bulls, but had little opportunity after that and conceded: “It was really disappointing, it is probably the worst we’ve played all year but, on a personal note, it was great to get my first start and to do it with a bunch of lads like that.
“It is tough times at the minute, but we are definitely going to be better in the near future for days like that.”
Looking back at what went wrong, McLelland said: “We struggled to gain a bit of momentum, especially in the second half. We made too many errors out of yardage, I think we completed below 60 per cent in yardage in the second half and you can’t do that and expect to win against any side. If you’re not keeping hold of the ball you’re not getting in places to score points and ultimately that loses you the game.”
Of his own performance, he added: “I thought I went all right with what I could do. Obviously it was a bit frustrating at times and I thought I could have been a bit more dominant at times, but I thought I went all right defensively.
“I am obviously pleased to have played, it’s a personal achievement, but gutted about the result and we’re looking to fix it up this week. The ability is there and always will be with a club like Leeds.
“I think sometimes it’s just the mental side of things.
“When stuff’s not going right, instead of getting down about it I reckon we need to switch our mentality and get that right. And I think that will make a massive difference in the long run.”