HE MAY be Leeds Rhinos’ No 1, but Ashton Golding is having to play second fiddle at the moment.
Teenager Jack Walker has been at full-back for Rhinos’ opening two Betfred Super League fixtures and was set to retain the role in today’s Downer World Club Challenge at Melbourne Storm.
Golding was 18th man, having had a similar role at Old Trafford when Rhinos beat Castleford Tigers to win their eighth Super League crown four months ago.
Rhinos have two outstanding young, Leeds-born full-backs, but only one of them can play.
So far this year it has been 21-year-old Golding having to bide his time, but – while frustrated – he insisted he is aware of the situation and determined to be ready to go when his opportunity eventually comes.
Despite yet having to lace a boot in anger this season, Golding reckons the week Down Under has been a valuable experience, though he admitted it is tough having to watch from the sidelines on the day Rhinos have been building up to.
“Obviously it is a frustrating period, going from a pre-season which I tipped a lot into,” said the 2017 Yorkshire Evening Post Shooting Star.
“Physically I got myself in great shape and technically I worked on a lot of aspects of my game.
“Mentally I am probably stronger than I’ve ever been.
“I think I have got to be to get through times like this when you are chomping at the bit, but you’re still not quite there in the coach’s eyes. It is frustrating, but hopefully at some point I will get my chance and show what I am all about.”
When the opportunity arises, Golding will need to be set to go, but won’t put too much pressure on himself.
“I don’t know when it will be,” he admitted.
“It could be after five weeks of not playing a game, just training.
“Match fitness comes into a lot of it, but I am trying to keep myself in a state where I am disregarding all those factors and going into a game like it’s any game and performing not for myself, but for the team.
“Ultimately it’s about the team’s performance.
“I need to perform well to retain my place, but if I can impact the team positively that is the most fulfilling thing.”
Rhinos have been together, training in warm, dry conditions, for a week.
It has been a mini-camp and Golding said he wouldn’t have missed the experience.
He stated: “I am a Bramley lad and coming to the other side of the world for rugby league is great.
“It has taken me to some fantastic places and I’ll be forever indebted to the sport, but on the flip side I didn’t travel half way around the world not to play.
“That’s the bit that’s really hurting, but I will get my head round it and I will be there for the boys. It is a final again and it’s frustrating, but when I get my chance I can showcase what I have been working on.”
Golding is building a reputation as one of the most enthusiastic members of Rhinos’ squad and there will be no sulking from him as he waits to play.
“I am not bigger than this group of players,” he said.
“I would never, ever disregard the group of players for myself and my own selfish feelings.
“I can put my feelings to the back, I have done it before and I can do it again.
“I will be 100 per cent committed to helping get these boys in the right shape and in the right mind.
“And if called upon, I have got to be ready. My mind has got to be on it as well, that’s the important fact of it.”
Carl Ablett, who missed training on Wednesday, took part in yesterday’s captain’s run at AAMI Stadium and was set to keep his place in the team today.
Brett Delaney has passed a head test after being concussed against Hull KR eight days ago and Joel Moon – who missed that game due to a leg injury – was also given the all-clear.
Prop Anthony Mullally has been told he will not need surgery on the fractured finger he suffered against Hull Kingston Rovers.
The front-rower is likely to miss next weekend’s trip to his hometown club Widnes Vikings, but could be in contention the following week when Rhinos take on Catalans Dragons at Emerald Headingley. Rhinos’ players are due to fly out of Melbourne tomorrow, arriving in Leeds on Sunday afternoon.
Coverage of Leeds Rhinos in Australia is in association with Betfred.