Leeds Rhinos loan move paying off for Featherstone Rovers forward James Harrison

Loan recruit James Harrison feels he is getting to grips with life at Leeds Rhinos following his temporary move from Featherstone Rovers.

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 8th November 2020, 12:00 pm
James Harrison takes a carry agianst Warrington. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
James Harrison takes a carry agianst Warrington. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Harrison had been on Rhinos’ radar for more than a year before the loan switch was agreed in August.

The arrangement has given the powerful forward a taste of full-time training and both he and the club an opportunity to see how he fares at the elite level.

The 24-year-old has now played four Betfred Super League games and was a winner in Leeds colours for the first time eight days ago against Wakefield Trinity.

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James Harrison. Picture Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos.

Reflecting on his two and a half months at Rhinos, Harrison said: “It has been good, I didn’t play for the first month, I was just getting used to the environment and full-time side of things, but I think after my first game I got a taste for it.

“I have been getting one game a week so I’ve been getting a bit of form and back to how I was playing [before lockdown].”

Harrison made his debut for Rhinos against Catalans Dragons at the end of September.

His previous game was Rovers’ Coral Challenge Cup defeat of Hunslet six months earlier and he admitted: “It was a long time and I could tell I was really rusty, just in contact and my tackles.”

But he stressed: “It does soon come back and after the Warrington game I felt much more comfortable.

“I am just getting used to the level and the speed of things and, the last few weeks, I feel like I have settled in really well.”

Harrison, whose father Karl is a former Great Britain Test forward and ex-coach of Salford, Batley Bulldogs and Halifax, had never trained full-time before joining Leeds and reckons that is making a massive difference. The ex-Batley man said: “It is good getting up every morning knowing you are playing rugby.

“It is what I have wanted to do ever since I was a child, play rugby full-time and play Super League. It has been good, a lot different to Featherstone where you are waiting around all day, or working through the day and training in the evening.

“Finishing in early afternoon and training in the light and good conditions has been really good, I have really enjoyed the change of environment.”

Harrison’s first steps into Super League could hardly have been tougher, against three of the current top four sides.

A young Leeds team gave a good account of themselves in defeat by Catalans, Warrington Wolves and St Helens and Harrison was singled out for praise by coach Richard Agar following the win over Wakefield, when he played in the front-row.

“I was a bit shocked when Rich told me before the game I was starting,” he conceded. “I just wanted to make an impact and prove I can play with the actual first team.

“I was playing with the main team and I really enjoyed that, I said to Rhys Evans after the game it was nice to finally get a win.

“I think there were a few of us like that so it was good. I have been happy with the minutes I’ve been playing and I feel fit so I’ve just got to keep impressing Rich and try and keep my spot in the team for the big games at the end of the season.

Despite that, Harrison is contracted to Rovers for 2021 and expects to be back there next year. He said: “The plan at the moment is to go back sometime in December to start training with Featherstone.

“Nothing has changed at the moment.”

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