Leeds Rhinos' James Donaldson has his career path mapped out

Since he joined Leeds Rhinos in 2019, James Donaldson has been known for his high workrate on the pitch - but that is only half the story.

The Cumbrian forward, a Challenge Cup winner with Leeds two years ago, has just graduated from Leeds Beckett University with a degree in quantity surveying.

And he has managed to combined that - and a series of other milestone events in his life - with playing full-time for Rhinos

“I’ve been doing a degree for the last three years, full-time at Leeds Beckett,” Donaldson confirmed.

James Donaldson celebrates his try against Toulouse Olympique. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“It has obviously been very challenging, while playing, getting married, getting a new house and having a little kid!

“It has been a pretty hectic time, but I am glad I did it because never in a million years did I think I’d go to university.

“I am grateful to Leeds for creating that opportunity and to be able to get a back up plan for when I need it a bit further down the line.”

Quantity surveyors manage the contractual and financial side of construction projects.

James Donaldson celebrates with Ash Handley, Zak Hardaker and Jarrod O'Connor. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

Explaining his interest, Donaldson revealed: “My wife’s dad used to own a construction company.

“I like working with numbers and, to be honest, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I finished playing.

“What I was aware of was my family have given up a lot of their time with me on a weekend and it was a job I thought would create a lifestyle where I can give my weekends back to my family when I finish.

“It has grown on me as I’ve got into the course; I like working with numbers, working with people and managing people.

“It all came down to that, really.”

At 30, Donaldson isn’t close to retirement, but admitted it is good to have his future career path mapped out now, rather than leaving it until his playing days are winding down.

“Especially after the road I have been on,” he added.

“There’s been a lot of tough times, a lot of dark times, as well as a lot of good times.

“I think when I have been in those tough times, with injuries and uncertainty, it has shown I do need a backup plan and how vital that’s going to be, to be able to carry on providing a nice lifestyle for my family later down the line.

“I just wanted to get it done and I can just concentrate on my rugby now and maybe work around the training schedule as well to perhaps try and get a bit more experience in quantity surveying.”

In the shorter-term, Donaldson’s aim is to help Rhinos climb into the play off spots during the final seven games of this season.

Rhinos will travel to Catalans Dragons on Saturday in buoyant mood following last week’s 42-12 win over Wigan Warriors.

“It was great to be back at Headingley, our home,” Donaldson reflected.

“We want to make it a place that’s tough to come to.

“When we ran out for the warm-up and all those fans were there, it made us realise why we love this sport and love playing.

“It was even nicer to put a good performance on for them.

“That all comes down to a lot of hard work behind the scenes from Rohan [Smith, Rhinos’ coach] and all the coaching staff.

“They have been unreal in preparing us and making sure we are in the best condition.

“We came up with a game plan we could execute well, but obviously that was last week’s game.

“This week is going to be different, especially going over there in the heat.

“We will prepare the best we can and see where it takes us.”