HOT PROSPECT Jordan Baldwinson is hoping to settle down at Leeds Rhinos in 2016 after a globetrotting start to his professional career.
The Hunslet Warriors product will be out to make a big impression when he comes off the bench for Rhinos in Saturday’s Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Baldwinson has played for a trio of different clubs since featuring for Rhinos against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Boxing Day three years ago.
He made two senior appearances with Leeds in 2013 before joining New Zealand Warriors’ lower grade team the following year.
After that spell was cut short he returned to England for a six-game stint in the top-flight with Bradford Bulls and then spent last season at Featherstone Rovers.
Rhinos re-signed him on a two-year contract after he was named Kingstone Press Championship young player of the year and he has been handed squad number 24 for the 2016 campaign.
Now Baldwinson, who played for Rhinos in their challenge game against the New Zealand tourists two months ago, is looking to build on the big reputation he earned during his time at Rovers.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said of his season at Big Fellas Stadium.
“It was good, I went quite well, I got loads of game time and I managed to show what I can do.”
The Championship is a hard school and Baldwinson reckons he is ready to step up to another level.
“It is pretty tough in the Championship, it is not as fast, but it is definitely as physical,” he observed.
“The collisions are quite brutal at times, it is a good league and a good standard and I learned a lot from it.”
Baldwinson made an impressive 33 appearances for Rovers, all but two in the starting lineup and was a member of their team which beat London Broncos in the Championship Shield final.
“I think it was a good achievement for me, being named young player of the year,” he reflected. “I was just grateful for the opportunity, but it is a new chapter at Leeds.
“I am just trying to get my head down and train hard and hopefully I will get a few games next season for the Rhinos.”
He added: “Last season really helped me settle down.
“I got a bit of confidence playing every week and I could perform to the best of my ability.
“Hopefully I can play a few games and make a bit of a name for myself next year, but I understand places at Leeds are hard to grab.
“I possibly won’t be first-choice prop, but when the opportunity comes I have got to grab it with both hands and hopefully I can build a reputation as a good player and show the Leeds Rhinos fans what I can do.”
Rhinos’ front-row legends Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai have both hung up their boots, but Baldwinson is aware he is in a long queue for a place in the matchday 17 when Super League starts in seven weeks’ time.
“Keith Galloway has come in from the NRL and they’ve signed Anthony Mullally,” he pointed out.
“Mitch Garbutt and Adam Cuthbertson are great players and Brad Singleton is doing really well.
“It isn’t going to be easy to get into the team and at Leeds Rhinos you never get anything handed to you.
“I will have to bide my time and if I wait for an opportunity I’ll be rewarded for hard work, then I will see what happens.
“Fingers crossed, I can have a good crack at it.”
Saturday’s game comes half way through pre-season and Baldwinson said preparations have gone well so far.
“I’m really enjoying it,” he said. “It is good to be back with all lads and it feels like I’ve not been away. Training has been pretty tough, but we’ve all been working hard.
“I am still getting to know the new boys and building a relationship with them and I’m really excited to pack down with Keith Galloway, Beau Falloon and Mitch Garbutt on Boxing Day.”
Sacrifices have to be made over the Christmas period, but Baldwinson reckons playing on Boxing Day is worth missing some festivities for.
“It’s always a great occasion and the fans love it,” he said of the annual derby.
“I am really excited, because the more games I can play, the better I’ll be for the experience.
“The only downside is you can’t really eat much Christmas dinner!
“I will have to watch what I eat, but I am sure I can squeeze a pudding in somewhere.”
Leeds Rhinos: Golding, Handley, Keinhorst, Moon, Briscoe, McGuire, Burrow, Galloway, Falloon, Cuthbertson, Walters, Ablett, Singleton. Subs Lilley, Garbutt, Achurch, Baldwinson, Jones, Smith, Jordan Roberts, Oledski.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: from Anderson, Annakin, Arona, Arundel, Ashurst, England, Finn, Jones-Bishop, Johnstone, Lyne, Kirmond, Miller, Moore, Scruton, Sio, Tansey, B Tupou.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Mirfield).
Kick-off: Boxing Day, 11.30am.