OVERHAULING this year’s total of 13 Leeds Rhinos appearances will be rising star Ashton Golding’s first target for 2017.
The 20-year-old full-back showed what he is capable of with a dynamic performance when Rhinos ended their season with a win over Leigh Centurions last week.
Golding started that game at full-back before moving into the halves as cover for Liam Sutcliffe.
He has also played as a winger for Leeds this year, turned out at scrum-half in the under-19s and had a stint on dual-registration with Featherstone Rovers.
That was despite several injury setbacks, beginning when he damaged an ankle in the First Utility Super League round-two defeat at Widnes Vikings.
His aim now is to ensure the progress made this year is a stepping stone to becoming a regular in the team.
“That’s all I can do, try and improve year on year,” Golding stressed.
“From last year to this year I think I have improved and going forward hopefully I can make more appearances and help the team more.
“I can see the pathway for myself.
“I have got to keep ticking some boxes – we all have to tick some boxes to get to play – but I feel like I am doing that.”
The ability to play at half-back is another string to Golding’s bow.
He added: “I enjoy it. I think when I go there I do something different to a conventional half-back, I am a runner, but I can also find that pass.
“Just mixing that up and working out when’s the right time to do it is good for me. I can’t wait to get a good pre-season into me and get going again.”
Pre-season is usually regarded as the worst time to be a professional player, but Golding insisted: “I can’t wait for it.
“I love pre-season, I am a runner – I love the speed and I love the fitness and I love the weights.
“It is me all over so I can’t wait to get into it and carry on and hopefully have a great season in 2017.”
The emergence of several highly-rated young players was one of the main positives from Rhinos’ disappointing season, Golding feels.
“Me, Jordan [Lilley] and Sam [Hallas] have all been through it all together,” he said. “There’s Josh Jordan-Roberts, Cameron Smith and Mikolaj [Oledzki] on the fringes as well and it’s great. I have played with them all so I know all their games and going forward that will be good.”
Jordan-Roberts made his senior debut in the 37-12 conquering of Leigh, when Smith and Hallas were alongside him on the bench and Oledzki was 18th man.
Leeds’ final game of the season was the last competitive fixture in front of Headingley Carnegie’s South Stand, which is due for demolition early in the new year.
That made it a special occasion for Golding. He said: “It was quite emotional. Every time I’ve played at Headingley I’ve had goose bumps at the back of my neck, just coming out and seeing the South Stand there.
“But looking forward to the future, I think I put in an okay performance and I think the boys really dug deep.
“Credit to Leigh, they are a great side and they have proved they are Super League standard, so to get a result like that was great.”