TEENAGE HALF-BACK Jordan Lilley is looking for a big end to a “mad” year
Lilley is in line to make his 22nd Leeds Rhinos appearance of the season in tonight’s crucial showdown with Salford Red Devils.
And he revealed he has almost tripled the target of first-team games he set himself for this season, with four rounds remaining in the First Utility Qualifiers.
“It has been a bit of a mad year for me,” said the scrum-half, who will turn 20 on Sunday.
“Probably the break in October will be good because of everything that’s gone on.
“I have played 21 games now and I am still in the team or there or thereabouts.
“That’s a confidence-boost. We have had players coming back and I am still in the team or on the bench.
“For me, that’s crazy – I have to pinch myself and each week I consider myself very lucky.”
Lilley admitted has already far exceeded his own expectations for 2016.
“I always set targets at the start of the year,” he said.
“Last year it was four games I played, so this year I spoke to my dad and we said we’ll double it and I will work hard and aim for eight.
“I played in the World Club Challenge and didn’t expect that and now I’ve played in 21 games which is nearly triple what I expected.”
Lilley will have high standards to meet in 2017, but he insisted: “I am looking forward to next year and trying to secure that spot and make myself a regular part of the senior squad. I am learning all the time. Rob [Burrow] and JJB [Jamie Jones-Buchanan] talk to me and they are still learning every day.
“I will do that no matter where I am, I will always be learning from the players around me. It is good to have those players around me and to learn off them and the attitude they bring.
“Overall it has just been fantastic this year.”
Rhinos will take a giant step towards securing their Super League place for 2017 if they can extend their 100 per cent record in the Qualifiers tonight.
But Salford are desperate for a win to keep alive their hopes of avoiding being dragged into the million pound game and Lilley predicted: “It is going to be massive.
“Salford haven’t been on too good a run and they will be coming to Headingley to cause an upset and keep their middle-eights campaign alive.
“We are looking to stop that and keep pushing on up the ladder. It is a big one for us and we know what we are going to be up against.
“On their day Salford are a very good team so we need to be careful. I think we’ll need a nine out of nine or 10/10 performance this week.”
Leigh Centurions are the only other team to have won their three games so far and Lilley said hanging on to top spot on the Qualifiers table is important to Rhinos.
“That’s the aim,” he said.
“We want to finish the middle-eights as the best team and then look forward to next year in Super League.
“We want to start that by finishing the season well. We’ve got a few players back and that has strengthened the squad.
“We’ve put a good run of performances together and we are looking forward to this week and keeping that run going.”