Leeds Rhinos: Lilley happy to fight for his place in first team
SHOOTING STAR Jordan Lilley insists he is relishing competition for a spot in Leeds Rhinos' side.
The 20-year-old scrum-half made 24 appearances in 2016 and was voted Rhinos’ most impressive young player by Yorkshire Evening Post readers.
But he faces a battle for a place next season with captain Danny McGuire now injury-free, Liam Sutcliffe vying for a return to the halves – after a spell at full-back – and recruit Cory Aston also in the mix, along with veteran Rob Burrow.
Lilley is aware of the danger of second-season syndrome and stressed he is taking nothing for granted ahead of the new campaign.
“I was lucky last year, I got a lot of game time through injuries,” said Lilley, who has been named at hooker for the Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge clash with Wakefield Trinity on Boxing Day.
“This year we’ve got a full-strength squad so for me it is competition, I have got to fight for my place in the team.
“Boxing Day gives me a good chance to show Mac [coach Brian McDermott] and the others what I can do and hopefully stamp a place in the team.
“But it is going to be tough with the likes of Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow both fit and Sutty.
“We’ve got the likes of Cory Ashton coming in and that’s more competition.
“It is all good. People say ‘what are they bringing him in for when they’ve got him?’ but it is good and it keeps you on your toes and you have to work hard in training.
“I will just go out there and hopefully this year can be just as good as last year for me personally and better on the field for Leeds Rhinos.
“Hopefully we will be pushing for trophies this year.”
Lilley said he is “not fazed” by his change of role for next Monday’s opening pre-season game.
“I’ve played hooker a few times,” Lilley recalled.
“It’s a position I know, but I will play anywhere when it comes to Leeds.
“It is not something that fazes me, I will just go out there and do a job.”
Lilley described the No 9 role as “similar to half-back”.
He said: “You are always in control of the ball and you are passing from dummy-half.
“It is just different passing from the floor rather than passing stood up, but the subtleties of getting out of dummy-half and little things like that are kind of my strong points, so we will see how it goes.
“I don’t think it will be too much different.”
Rhinos have been in training for seven weeks and Lilley said pre-season has been “very tough”.
He said: “They have put us through our paces, but the boys look good, they look very sharp.
“We are trying to do things better than we did last year.
“We are all very determined. We’ve trained hard, worked hard and it will be good to see how we get on on Boxing Day. We got beat last year against Wakefield. It is a friendly, but we want to win. Hopefully we can do the job, get the win on Boxing Day and then have a nice Christmas.”