New RECRUIT Cory Aston is already enjoying one benefit of the step up to Super League with Leeds Rhinos – free food.
The 21-year-old half-back was full-time with Sheffield Eagles last season in the Kingstone Press Championship, but joining Rhinos is a whole new ball game. He linked up his new team-mates for the start of pre-season training last week, just days after signing a two-year contract, and admitted it has been an eye-opener.
“I am really enjoying it,” Aston said. “It is a different kind of environment to what I am used to. It is a lot more professional – food is provided, which is a big one for me. Little things like that have taken me aback.”
Aston – the son of Sheffield coach Mark Aston – made his debut for Eagles as an 18-year-old in 2013 and scored 31 tries in 69 Championship games.
“Leeds is one of the biggest clubs in England,” he said. “It is a massive opportunity for me and I am really looking forward to it. I spoke to my dad and my agent David Howes about it and everything they said was positive, which was the kind of feedback I was looking for.”
Despite his enthusiasm, Aston is under no illusions about the size of the task facing him as he bids to make a top-flight breakthrough.
He said: “Playing in Super League has always been a massive dream for me. I have signed for Leeds Rhinos, but there’s a lot of hard work to do before I can make my Super League debut.
“There’s some good half-backs in front of me – Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, and Jordan Lilley and Liam Sutcliffe can play in the halves as well.
“It’s a big challenge, but it’s great to train alongside them –you learn so much from them from what they’ve done in the game.
“Everything I pick up off them is going to improve my game. They have played so many Grand Finals and Challenge Cup finals and for England and Great Britain, so it is massive what I can pick up.”
Aston could make his first appearance for Leeds in the Boxing Day showdown with Wakefield Trinity. Pre-season matches will give him an opportunity to show what he can do and he feels ready to test himself in the elite competition.
“I am looking forward to the challenge of playing at that level and just training at that level,” he said. “They train at a different intensity and it is a different kind of training. I have been playing in the Championship for four years and I feel I am ready.”
Eagles struggled in 2016, but Aston reckons that experience will prove invaluable. He recalled: “It was really tough on and off the field. There were times when I was speaking to my dad and saying I was really struggling. I felt drained, but it is all experience and my dad said if it happens again I am going to know how to deal with it.
“It was character-building. We had a young side and at times they were looking to me for guidance. As a young half-back it is tough, you feel the pressure on you all the time, but for me everything is experience.”