LEADING TRY scorer Ash Handley has become the first player in the final year of his Leeds Rhinos contract to sign a new deal.
The homegrown winger-turned-centre has agreed a new three-year contract that will keep him at Emerald Headingley until the end of the 2021 season.
The 22-year-old Oulton Raiders product has touched down 10 times in 15 appearances this term and is equal sixth-highest try scorer in Betfred Super League. In total, Handley, who made his debut in 2014, has played 69 games for Rhinos, scoring 35 tries.
“I knew this year was going to be a big one for me with my contract up and I wasn’t a regular in the team,” he said.
“I knew I had to work hard and push for a place in the side and fortunately I have got a chance at centre and had a good run of games.
“I am delighted to sign a new three-year deal at Leeds and I am excited to see where that takes me.”
I knew I had to work hard and push for a place in the side and fortunately I have got a chance at centre and had a good run of games.Ash Handley
Handley added: “I knew I always had the ability to perform, but it has been about the consistency in games and getting a run of matches.
“I have had to train hard and fix up the little things off the field that ensure I am able to do the business on the field.
“I feel like I have developed my confidence and I now go into games knowing I can have an impact on matches for the team and make something happen rather than just making up the numbers as you do when you are a young lad, fresh out of the academy.”
Handley did not feature in Rhinos’ opening three competitive games this year, but was called up on the left-wing when an injury-hit side lost at Widnes Vikings in February.
An injury to Jimmy Keinhorst in that game led to him switching to centre for the following week’s visit of Hull and he has been ever-present since, playing in 14 successive games.
He said: “I am enjoying playing centre, but I am not too fussed where I play as long as I am able to help the team. I have a good relationship with Ryan Hall and that is working well for us. Hopefully we can continue to develop that throughout the season.”
Rhinos will aim to end a three-match losing run in Super League when they play host to Huddersfield Giants tomorrow.
“We have had a few disappointing results in the league of late, but we are sticking together and we know we are not too far off,” Handley insisted.
“Hopefully we can get back to winning ways on Friday against the Giants.”
Long-term casualties centre Liam Sutcliffe and prop Mitch Garbutt have been named in Rhinos’ initial 19-man squad for tomorrow. Sutcliffe suffered a foot injury in the defeat at Widnes and has played only one game since, when he had a recurrence.
Garbutt has featured only twice this year because of quad and knee injuries. Centre Keinhorst (hamstring), prop Anthony Mullally (suspended) and second-row Carl Ablett (calf) all drop out.