Kallum Watkins is backed to make his mark with Gold Coast Titans
DEPARTING LEEDS Rhinos captain Kallum Watkins will get back to his best and wow the NRL, his team-mate James Donaldson predicts.
Watkins will be a Leeds player for two more games - away to St Helens on Friday and at home against Catalans Dragons nine days later - before joining Gold Coast Titans on a contract until the end of 2021.
The 28-year-old England centre has not yet got back to his peak after a devastating anterior cruciate ligament (acl) injury 13 months ago, but Donaldson has been there and done that and has no doubt Watkins will come good.
“I am glad I got chance to play with him,” said Donaldson who joined Rhinos in pre-season.
“What a role model and what a player.
“He has had a tough year coming back from the acl.
“I know myself how hard that is, I have come back from three.
“I know what that feels like and his best rugby is yet to come.
“It takes at least 12 months to get over an acl and he came back playing after seven.
“That’s just his determination and I am sure he will go over there and absolutely kill it.”
With England academy ace Harry Newman having established himself in the right centre and Konrad Hurrell back from injury on the left, Watkins has been in the second-row for Rhinos’ past two games.
Donaldson has switched between second-row and loose-forward and has had spells as a starter and substitute.
He insisted: “I am happy to play wherever the team wants me or needs me. As long as I am in the team I will play anywhere.”
Rhinos are keen to send Watkins out on a high. Friday’s game at the runaway league leaders is the toughest-possible challenge, but Donaldson reckons performances are improving and there were positives to take from last week’s 23-14 defeat by Wigan Warriors.
“I think four weeks ago we’d have talked about our defence, but now we’re talking about our good ball,” he said. “Our defence was on point for 95 per cent of the [last Friday’s] game, but we couldn’t open them up towards the back end of the game.
“It didn’t help when Sutty [Liam Sutcliffe] went off, we had to move things about, but we took a step in the right direction and we were only a hair away from getting the win.”
Rhinos spent a long period close to Wigan’s line in the final quarter, when they trailed by three points. Wrong options, some wayward kicking and errors - plus a solid defensive effort by the visitors - kept Rhinos out and Wigan scored a converted try after the final hooter.
“We had a few sets down there,” Donaldson reflected. “My kick, personally, probably let a bit of gas off down there, but there’s a lot of things that add up - a lot of errors and penalties.
“We weren’t far off and you can see the progress in defence. It is positive and we have got to move forward this week and take the positives into St Helens.
“We are quietly confident we can go there and put a performance in. We have been working so hard in training - they have been tough sessions - and it is showing out on the field now.”