Few positives have come out of Leeds Rhinos’ dismal first half of the season, but teenage centre Harry Newman’s integration into the team is one bright spark.
The England academy centre has featured in more than half of Rhinos’ 17 competitive fixtures – scoring seven tries – and, while still learning, has done enough to suggest he has a big future at the top level.
Sunday’s Magic Weekend clash with London Broncos will be another step on a steep learning curve, but Newman is happy with the way he is progressing, though the team’s poor results have taken some of the gloss off.
Reflecting on the campaign so far, Newman said: “Personally it’s going really well. I’m getting some games, I am on nine now, I am enjoying it and I think I’m in good form.
“I am 19 years old so playing nine Super League games is quite good. I am learning a lot every week and I think I am improving every week. I’ve just got to keep doing what I can do to stay in the team.
“It is just disappointing the team’s not performing the way we should at the minute. We are really looking to improve that and start that off with a big win this weekend.”
I am learning a lot every week and I think I am improving every week.Harry Newman
Newman had a sensational breakthrough year on dual-registration with Featherstone Rovers in the Betfred Championship last season, but Super League is a big step up.
Sunday will be his eighth successive appearance and he said: “The physicality is probably similar, but it’s a faster game and there’s better quality players.
“You haven’t got as much time on the ball, everyone’s in your face, but I am really learning from that at the minute.
“I have just got to keep doing what I can do, working on things I need to work on and pushing to get in the team and hopefully I can stay in.”
Six teenagers have played for Leeds this year and Newman reckons they can be a positive influence in difficult times.
“I feel we can bring that energy,” he pointed out. “We are all young, we are fit and we’re raring to go.”
Newman described himself as “excited” for his Magic Weekend debut, adding: “It is a big sporting venue, Anfield and I am a football fan so it will be good to play there, if I get picked.
“Liverpool beat Barcelona 4-0 there so it’s an iconic venue and probably the biggest venue I’ve played at. Headingley is an outstanding stadium to play at, but I am really looking forward to it.”
A West Ham fan, following in the footsteps of his father who is from ‘down south’ – Newman is under no illusions about the importance of Sunday’s game.
Only points difference separates bottom club London from Leeds in 10th spot and – if they lose and Hull KR beat Salford Red Devils in the preceding match – the eight-time champions could be propping up the table by the end of the day.
Newman said: “It is a big game, obviously we’ve got the same points as London now. There’s three teams on the same points so we know what’s at stake, but we are just focusing on ourselves this week and what we can do to improve.”
Newman played two months ago when London scored two tries in the last five minutes to win 18-16 at Emerald Headingley.
Broncos lost their next eight league and cup matches, but returned to winning ways with a shock 42-34 success against Wakefield Trinity last Saturday.
“It was a tough loss to take,” Newman said of the previous meeting. “But I think since then we have grown as a team.
“We are getting better, even though the results aren’t showing that at the minute. I think it will click at some point.”
London have been favourites for the drop ever since they secured promotion by beating Toronto Wolfpack in last autumn’s Million Pound Game. They will have nothing to lose on Sunday, but Newman insisted: “I think if you are around the bottom of the table the pressure’s on everyone really.
“They don’t want to go down, we obviously don’t want to go down so both teams have got a lot to lose. We know it is a big game, but we’re just focusing on ourselves. I think we are clicking in training, we just need to take that out on to the field.”
Richard Agar will take charge as interim coach for the third time and has impressed Newman so far.
“Rich was involved when Dave [Furner, Rhinos’ previous boss] was here and he is a good coach,” he said. He knows what he is doing and I think he will have a real impact on the squad.”