Leeds Rhinos in focus - spotlight on Ash Handley
If - as expected - Stevie Ward and Liam Sutcliffe move on to rival clubs before the start of next season, Ash Handley will become Leeds Rhinos’ second-longest-serving player in 2021.
Now 24, Handley played once for Rhinos in 2014, towards the end of a season in which Leeds’ other current first-choice winger, Tom Briscoe, made his debut.
From an inauspicious start, when Leeds became the only Super League team that year to lose to London Broncos, Handley has gone on to establish himself as one of the competition’s most prolific and consistent try scorers.
Here we consider what he will bring to Leeds’ squad when they return to action next month.
At 6ft 2ins and 14st 8lb, Handley is built like a back-rower, but has the pace expected of an outside-back and is an outstanding finisher.
A strong ball carrier coming away from his own line, he can also play in the centres, as he did for much of 2018 and could slot in as an emergency full-back.
Handley proved his Super League class in 2015 after Tom Briscoe suffered a long-term injury.
He scored 13 tries in 20 appearances that year and came of age as a first team player when he ran in a hat-trick in a win at St Helens - a feat he repeated in the return meeting at Heaidngley.
Player of the year in 2019, Handley was one of the few Rhinos men to emerge with credit from a dismal campaign.
Despite playing in a relegation-threatened team, he touched down 22 times in 29 games and finished joint-second in the race to be Betfred Super League’s top try scorer
Difficult to pin-point many. Handley is unproven in the biggest games, having not played at Test level or in a major final, but that’s not his fault.
Handley has formed a powerful partnership with centre Konrad Hurrell on Rhinos’ left side, the duo bagging 36 tries between them last season and seven in five games this term.
He has improved year on year and is at an age when his best rugby is still ahead of him.
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Laura Collins Editor