SHOOTING STAR Jordan Lilley hopes he is back at Leeds Rhinos for good.
Lilley was recalled from a loan spell at Bradford Bulls to feature in the 24-22 win over St Helens four days ago. He reckons time in the Kingstone Press Championship has made him a better player and now wants to show what he can do at the top level.
“I am a confident player,” said Lilley, 20, who was voted Rhinos’ most outstanding youngster last season by Yorkshire Evening Post readers.
“I think I am ready to take that step up and play week-in and week-out [at Leeds]. We will see what happens. I have to earn that spot first.
“I have got the likes of Danny McGuire in front of me and I’ve got to keep playing well when I get my shot and training hard and if it comes it comes and if it doesn’t I’ll just keep going.”
The time at Bradford gave Lilley an opportunity to learn off Australian coach Geoff Toovey, a former Test scrum-half. He said: “It has been outstanding, Geoff’s a really good bloke and the things he’s done in rugby league are something I look up to.
“He has been really good with me, he has been looking at my game and making me a better player. I can’t thank him – and the boys at Bradford – enough for what he has done for me.
“The spell there has done me good. I have toughed it out in the Championship in a team that’s gone through a lot so it has been hard, but it has tested my character and to me it has shown who I am as a person and that I can go through the tough times and come out the other end better. For me it has been a really good spell.”
The win over Saints was only Lilley’s third game of the season for Leeds and he reflected: “It was excellent – it’s my hometown club and that’s where I want to play. It was good to get back out there with the boys and they were so good during the week with me.
“I hadn’t been there for months on end so structures and stuff they’ve been putting in place are new to me. The boys helped me in the week and out on the field. At times it may look a bit scratchy, but not playing in this side so long it is going to be like that. Hopefully I can keep my place in the team and work on some combinations and in the end progress and it will look good.”
Lilley was called up in place of McGuire, who served a one-match ban against Saints. Rhinos were also without half-back/hooker Rob Burrow, who will be sidelined until the Super-8s following shoulder surgery.
“I have been full-time with Bradford and coming back on a Tuesday to train with Leeds and doing bits with them to still keep on track there,” Lilley said.
“I got the call back last Monday to say I was going to be needed so I trained hard in the week and got my shot on Thursday and I did all right. The boys really made me feel welcome when I came back. They are an outstanding bunch of lads and they are good with the young lads. In a sense it was weird coming back, but it was like I’d never left with how the boys were with me.”
Lilley created two of Rhinos’ four tries and landed four goals from five attempts. He said: “It went all right. There were always going to be some scratchy parts where I could have attacked better, or could have done this or that, but it was my first game back in Super League and it’s a lot faster. I have had to adapt to that. Twenty minutes in I was blowing and my legs were feeling it afterwards, but that’s the standard and the step up. I did all right and we got the win. That was the most important thing for me.”
A year ago today Rhinos suffered a home loss to Widnes Vikings which condemned them to a place in the middle-eights Qualifiers. Lilley reckons the win over Saints showed how far they have come since then. He said: “Last year we probably struggled to get those wins when key men were out, like Danny McGuire and Jamie Jones-Buchanan, but we knew we weren’t far off, we just needed to be confident in what we did. This year we are playing with confidence and we’ve got the likes of Joel Moon, who is so silky with the ball and is finishing some tries off.
“We’ve got players out there playing well. It was a game last year we probably would not have won, but it shows the character in the group and how we’ve come back from what happened last year.”