Leeds Rhinos: Switch is central to Handley’s career path

Leeds Rhinos centre Ash Handley in action against Wakefield Trinity last time out. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
Leeds Rhinos centre Ash Handley in action against Wakefield Trinity last time out. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
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CENTRE PERKS hold more appeal for Leeds Rhinos’ rising star Ash Handley than going back to winging it.

Handley has been a rare success story for Rhinos this year since switching from wing to centre.

Leeds Rhinos winger Ryan Hall touches down against Wakefield last week. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Leeds Rhinos winger Ryan Hall touches down against Wakefield last week. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Rhinos have a wing vacancy for next year with England ace Ryan Hall having confirmed he will leave the club.

NRL side Sydney Roosters are set to sign Hall who, like Handley, is a product of the Oulton Raiders community outfit.

The England star’s exit could open an opportunity for Handley to move back to his original position next year, with a fit-again Kallum Watkins playing alongside Liam Sutcliffe in the centres.

Featherstone Rovers’ Luke Briscoe is another candidate to replace Hall.

Leeds Rhinos' joint leading try scorer Ash Handley touching down against fellow Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-finalists Leigh Centurions. PIC: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

Leeds Rhinos' joint leading try scorer Ash Handley touching down against fellow Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-finalists Leigh Centurions. PIC: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

The record-breaking winger re-joined Leeds last month and has featured twice for them this season, but is currently back at his former club on dual-registration and a decision has yet to be made on whether he will remain a Rhinos player in 2019.

Handley, who signed a new three-year contract last month, stressed he will play wherever he is asked to, but confirmed he sees his long-term future as a centre.

“If required I am not going to turn down a chance to play, whether that be wing or centre, but preferably for me now I’d rather stick to centre and work on playing there and consistently playing well there,” he revealed.

“I feel more like a centre now. I am very comfortable there and I am learning every day. I am enjoying being one place in and really going for it and trying to make that position mine now.”

The 22-year-old, who is Rhinos’ joint top try scorer this year with 11 in 19 games, added: “I’m enjoying my rugby, enjoying playing in that position and I’ll do anything I can to help the team.

“You’ve got options at centre. On the wing you are the last option, but at centre you’ve got inside, outside or go on your own.

“It’s also good to get involved with a bit more tackling.

“I like having a bigger involvement in the game and making things happen.

“I was a centre growing up so I’ve always had the ability to play there, the knowledge of when to pass and when not to pass.

“Me and Hally have had some success down the left, where either he scores or I score, so I’ve been enjoying it.”

Handley made a try-scoring return, after a two-game layoff, in last Friday’s 20-20 draw with Wakefield Trinity and confirmed he came through unscathed.

“It was nice to be back,” he said. “It was just a tweak in my hamstring. I could probably have tried to get in for the Cas game, but it was better not to force it. I felt good when I was back in and enjoyed playing again, but we just fell short.”

If Rhinos fail to beat bottom club Widnes Vikings on Friday they will be out of contention for a place in the Super-8s with one game remaining in the regular season.

“It’s a must-win game and we’ve got to hope other results go our way,” Handley noted.

“We can only control what we can control.

“Hopefully we can get two wins and that will put us in good stead for the [Ladbrokes Challenge Cup] semi-final.”