ROOKIE half-back Jordan Lilley refuses to be fazed by the prospect of facing the best in the world.
Leeds captain Danny McGuire will be sidelined for up to eight weeks after suffering knee damage in last week’s First Utility Super League round one defeat at home to Warrington Wolves.
Coach Brian McDermott has yet to reveal how he plans to cover McGuire’s absence, but it could mean an extended run for Lilley, who has just five senior games under his belt.
Rhinos travel to Widnes Vikings on Sunday and play host to Australian champions North Queensland Cowboys seven days later in the World Club Challenge.
If Lilley, 19, is chosen at scrum-half for that game he will find himself up against Cowboys’ Australian international Johnathan Thurston, rated as the world’s best player.
It is an exciting – and possibly daunting – prospect, but Lilley isn’t looking further than his next training session.
“For me it is just a case of training week in and week out, putting the effort in at training and showing Mac I can be there or thereabouts,” Lilley insisted.
“To play in the World Club Challenge would be a really good accolade for me, but if I don’t it is just one of those things.
“I don’t expect to play, I will just train my hardest and if I get picked I get picked and if I don’t, I don’t.”
Lilley has shown massive potential in his handful of games so far, including last Thursday when he played out of position at hooker.
McDermott switched Rob Burrow into the halves alongside Liam Sutcliffe and Lilley said: “I was fortunate to get on when I did and I put a decent performance in, but I wouldn’t say I had a great game or a good game.
“I had an average game at best, I made a few mistakes and a few decisions I shouldn’t have made. But I am only 19 and I am learning from these and playing week in and week out will help me with that.
“For Brian to put me in shows he believes in me.
“I am a very confident lad and I believe in myself and my ability, but for him to select me was a confidence boost for me.”
Lilley, a product of the Stanningley amateur club, added: “I am a Leeds fan and for me to be playing for Leeds is a dream come true.
“I believe in myself, but to be here now, doing it, it is an honour.
“But I have a long way to go to where I want to be, playing and contesting.”
Last week’s game was one of the most intense opening encounters seen in Super League and Lilley reckons he will only benefit from playing in matches like that. He said: “I have played in some intense games, but it was the first game of the season and everyone’s revved up, everyone’s been watching videos of each other and wanting to hit each other, so it was very intense.
“Warrington put up a good fight and we just fell short. We had chances to win the game – we just didn’t take them when they came about.”