Leeds Rhinos rising star Harry Newman confident of filling departing captain Kallum Watkins’ boots
RISING STAR Harry Newman admits Kallum Watkins’ exit from Leeds Rhinos opens a “massive opportunity” for him – but has paid tribute to the departing captain for the key role he has played in his career so far.
Watkins will play his penultimate game for Rhinos when they visit Betfred Super League leaders St Helens tomorrow.
The England centre will leave after next week’s home clash with Catalans Dragons to join Australian NRL outfit Gold Coast Titans.
“Obviously it is a massive opportunity for me to kick on, but Kallum has been a great role model for me while I’ve been here,” Newman said.
“The things he has done for me, on and off the field, have brought me on as a person and a player.
“I have really learned from him, I can’t thank him enough and I wish him all the best for the future. He has been absolutely fantastic for me.”
Newman’s form and potential were a key factor in Rhinos’ decision to release Watkins from the final two and a half seasons of his contract.
The 19-year-old, who has scored eight tries in 12 games for Rhinos this year, said: “I just want to kick on for the rest of the season and play as many games as I can.
“My game has grown this year and I feel like I am establishing myself as a Super League player.
“I was keen to push Kallum and Konny [Konrad Hurrell] and that has got me to where I am now.
“I have probably played more games than I expected at this point. I was aiming for 10 all year so I have already beaten that and anything else is a bonus.”
Newman insisted: “Playing against the likes of [Wigan’s] Oliver Gildart and Mark Percival, if I’m selected this week, I am learning a lot.
“They have both played at England level and they are the best there is out there at the minute.
“For me, playing against them is a big learning curve and I know what I need to get to.”
After starring for England academy in last year’s Test-series win over Australian Schoolboys, Newman has targeted more international honours.
“I want to push on and aim for England Knights at the end of the year,” he confirmed.
“I have sat down and spoken with Kev [Sinfield, Rhinos’ director of rugby who is also part of the England set-up] about that.
“That is the target for me and the next goal in the on-going process.”
That will come from playing well for Rhinos and Newman admitted: “We have struggled this season, but I think Rich [Agar, Rhinos’ interim coach] has brought some things in and we are looking a lot better.
“The defence is solid, we are not conceding anything like as many points and Rich has been good. He has been good for me and for the group and we are just looking to kick on now.”
Tomorrow’s game is the toughest possible task with Saints sitting six points clear at the top of the table and having lost only once this year.
Newman said: “They are looking the best side out of anyone, but we’ve been there once already this year and we pushed them all the way in that game and we probably should have won.
“We’ve worked on what we need to fix up and we’ve just got to go there with confidence and come away with the two points.
“There’s no reason why we can’t if we play well.”