AS A YOUNG player trying to build a career in rugby league, Leeds Rhinos forward Dan Waite-Pullan has had to cope with more setbacks than most.
The 20-year-old has already seen his hopes of becoming a first teamer at Bradford Bulls shattered when the club was liquidated, then a shoulder injury hampered a promising start to his time at Rhinos.
Now fully fit, he has impressed the coaching staff enough to secure a first-team squad number and has been training full-time since pre-season began on November 12.
The second-rower has also played twice on dual-registration with Featherstone Rovers and is determined not to let this chance slip through his fingers.
“I missed a lot of last year’s games through injury so it is a good opportunity to prove myself,” Waite-Pullan said of his elevation to the first-team squad.
“It happened a year and a half ago, I tore my shoulder and then something went wrong with the recovery and the operation so I had to have two operations on it.
“It ended up me being out of the game for quite a while. It is going to take a bit of time to get back into it, but I’ve been really enjoying it so far.
“I think I’ve made a bit of a mark already and I just need to keep on going. It is quality learning off the older blokes, like Trent Merrin, and Dave Furner is a quality coach. I have learned a lot off him so far.
“He is brilliant and I’m just happy to be part of what he has got going here. The first team is what I am aiming for, but I am just happy to get some minutes under my belt again.”
Waite-Pullan’s route into Rhinos’ full-time squad has been far from straightforward.
He was a Rhinos season ticket holder as a youngster, but joined Bradford from the Stanningley community club and was a regular for their academy before the club’s collapse.
Rhinos stepped in to sign him for the 2017 season, but the injury kept him out of the side which reached last year’s academy Grand Final before losing to Wigan Warriors.
Now over-age for the under-19s, he knows he has to prove he can perform against men and his two pre-season games for Rovers, at Castleford Tigers and Dewsbury Rams, were an opportunity to do that.
“I am too old to play academy so that’s what I need,” he accepted.
“I just need to get some minutes under my belt; with not playing for so long I’m just used to getting the hits again and getting back into the contact.”
An experimental Rovers side were crushed 56-0 at the Jungle, but Waite-Pullan had a strong game in the 20-14 loss to Rams six days later.
“Personally I was pleased with my performance,” Waite-Pullan said of his latest hit-out.
“There is a lot to work on, but all the lads put 100 per cent effort in.
“I thought for the majority of that game we were the better team.
“There were just a few little errors here and there that we can fix up on but, all in all, it was an improvement on the last game.”