TEENAGE winger Ash Handley is aiming to use Tom Briscoe’s injury as an opportunity to prove he is Super League material.
Handley is set for a run in Leeds Rhinos’ side after Briscoe was told he needs surgery on a damaged shoulder.
Briscoe’s injury is a setback for Rhinos, who have lost one of their most in-form players, but a huge opportunity for Handley who is set to make his third senior appearance in Saturday’s game at Catalans Dragons.
The 19-year-old made his first team bow in last August’s defeat at London Broncos and scored his first try on his home debut against Wigan Warriors five days ago.
“Hopefully, I will stay in the team,” said Handley, an Oulton Raiders product, who is training full-time with the senior squad.
“I’ll keep trying to play well and hopefully I’ll keep the spot until Tom comes back.
“I have only had two real games and hopefully I can get a few more while Tom is out. I’ll just have to see what I can do.”
Being a young winger at Leeds is a double-edged sword: Handley is learning off two of the best in the business, but has England squad members Ryan Hall and Briscoe standing between him and a regular first team spot.
“It is a good thing in some respects because I am learning a lot off those two,” he said.
“I am seeing what they can do and, hopefully, I can try and mirror it.
“It is going to be tough trying to get in past those two, but I just have to do what I can.”
Having gone up against one of the biggest clubs in the game, in front of an 18,000 crowd and the Sky-television cameras, last Friday, Handley is confident he can handle whatever Super League throws at him over the next few weeks.
“They are a different class, compared to what I am used to,” he said of last week’s opposition.
“I have never played against a team of that calibre, so it was really good to get out there and get a taste of it.
“I thought it went well, especially in the first half.
“You just want to get the first carry in, just to get it over with and to let the nerves settle, so to get over for a try was a real confidence-booster.”
Handley was placed on stand-by earlier in the week and told the day before the game he would definitely be playing.
“I found out Tom had an injury and Brian (coach Brian McDermott) gave me the nod to play,” he said.
“I was thinking about it all the way until the game and luckily it went all right.
“A lot of my family and friends came to watch, but I couldn’t tell everyone because it wasn’t released. I had to keep it between close friends and family. I supported Leeds when I was a little kid, so playing for them – especially in one of the biggest games they are going to have this year – is good for me.
“It is different to the 19s, especially playing in front of a crowd like that, but once you make your first carry you get into it and you don’t really think about things like that.”