THE CAREER of rising star Mikolaj Oledzki took another step forward when he made his first start for Leeds Rhinos.
The giant prop was in the team which began last week’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup sixth-round win at Widnes Vikings, after being on the bench for all his previous 13 first-team appearances.
He admitted to being “absolutely over the moon” with his latest milestone, which came on his recall to the side after playing on dual-registration for Featherstone Rovers the previous weekend.
“It was something I was working towards,” said the 19-year-old England academy forward, who was born in Poland and did not start playing rugby league until his early teens.
“It was one of my targets, to get a start and to show the coaching staff I can do a job for the team.
“Hopefully that’s what I’ve proved. I am grateful the coaching staff believed I could do a job.”
Oledzki admitted he was “a bit more nervous than usual” before last Friday’s game, which Rhinos won 23-20.
“I knew I had to be on my A-game and I knew I had to do the best job I could,” he added.
“It is important to start the game well, especially against Widnes away. I was a bit nervous, but after the first kick-off I felt all right. It felt like a normal game.”
Oledzki finished the match on the bench, but confirmed he had not been injured.
He explained: “I just got terrible cramp.
“I couldn’t run it off, I couldn’t do anything about it.
“It’s just a shame I couldn’t finish the game, but I was happy with the overall performance and glad to get the win and to be in the next round.”
Rhinos have been ravaged by injuries in their front-row this season and Oledzki was recalled after Brad Singleton underwent surgery on a broken thumb.
Mitch Garbutt is also on the long-term casualty list so the youngster has a chance to get more games under his belt, including against Castleford Tigers on Saturday at the Magic Weekend.
“Singo being out is a big blow for us,” conceded Oledzki.
“He is a big part of the team.
“On the other hand, it’s exciting for me as a young player because I can hopefully step up and show everyone I can do a good job in the team and have an impact as well.”
Head coach Brian McDermott, a prop in his playing days, was impressed by Oledzki’s performance at Widnes. McDermott enthused: “He had some really strong carries. He can defend the tough moments as well.
“Before the game he wanted to know if he had to do anything different, was anything different expected of him? We said no, keep serving up what you’ve been doing, which he did. He was very strong in D [defence].
“It is hard for a big man to get his feet right and his shoulders right.
“To get some of the technique right about how to defend you have got to have about 100 games under your belt before you’re really good at that type of stuff.
“Mik seems to have some awareness of that early, for a bloke who didn’t play as a kid.
“It’s a really encouraging sign for him.”