Leeds Rhinos' James Donaldson talks new deal hopes, pride at 100 games and why every match now is must-win

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Forward James Donaldson is conducting his own negotiations as he aims to secure a new deal at Leeds Rhinos.

Donaldson, who made his 100th appearance for the club in their most recent game two weeks ago, is out of contract at the end of this season, but keen to remain at Leeds.

He reckons Rhinos are now into sudden-death rugby as they battle to climb two places into the final play-offs spot over the last six rounds of the regular Betfred Super League season.

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Rhinos, who play host to Warrington Wolves on Sunday, are four points adrift of the all-important top-six and Donaldson regards every game from now on as a must-win.

Rhinos' James Donaldson. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.Rhinos' James Donaldson. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.
Rhinos' James Donaldson. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.

The 31-year-old former Bradford Bulls and Hull KR man joined Rhinos, initially as a trialist, ahead of the 2019 season.

“I am pretty proud of making 100 Leeds appearances,” he said of the milestone reached in the 13-6 loss to Leigh Leopards.

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“I have been here five years now and it has been a real rollercoaster ride. Some people dream of playing for Leeds once, never mind 100 times and it is something I am really proud of, wearing that badge every week. Hopefully I’ll get to wear it a bit more.”

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Rhinos' James Donaldson is tackled by John Asiata, of Leigh. Picture by Steve Riding.Rhinos' James Donaldson is tackled by John Asiata, of Leigh. Picture by Steve Riding.
Rhinos' James Donaldson is tackled by John Asiata, of Leigh. Picture by Steve Riding.

Rhinos have yet to reveal whether a new contract is on the table and Donaldson insisted: “I’ll just keep my head down and let the club take care of that.

“I have just got to take care of my performances and help the team in any way I can, whether it’s on the field or off the field.

“I don’t have an agent, I am my own agent so I deal with it all myself at first hand. That’s better for me because I know exactly what’s going on. It is a tough position to be in, but I prefer it that way.”

The loss to Leigh was Rhinos’ third successive defeat. Donaldson stressed they haven’t given up hope of a top-six finish, but face an uphill struggle.

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Rhinos' James Donaldson in pre-season action against one of his former clubs, Bradford Bulls. Picture by Tony Johnson.Rhinos' James Donaldson in pre-season action against one of his former clubs, Bradford Bulls. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Rhinos' James Donaldson in pre-season action against one of his former clubs, Bradford Bulls. Picture by Tony Johnson.

He vowed: “We have got to concentrate on the job in hand and try to make that top-six and we have got to win every game to make that possible.

“As long as there’s a chance there we have got to keep on fighting all the way to the end. We let that one go [against Leigh] and we’ve let a few more go during the season, but hopefully we can come back after this little break with the right attitude, put the hard work in and come back firing.

“Every game is a big one now. We need to bring our A-game every week and if we don’t, we know what the consequences are.”

Long-term injuries suffered by Richie Myler and Justin Sangare, plus Blake Austin’s sudden departure to Castleford Tigers, have made Rhinos’ task even harder, but Donaldson stressed: “They are things that are out of our hands.

“We have just got to concentrate on the team that’s in the sheds ready to play every week and take care of what we can control.”