TEENAGE PROSPECT Josh Jordan-Roberts is hoping to make an impact for Leeds Rhinos on Boxing Day – after watching last season’s game from the bench.
It is the second successive year Jordan-Roberts has been included in Rhinos’ Christmas squad.
He was an unused substitute 12 months ago and is relishing an opportunity to show what he can do when Wakefield Trinity visit Headingley in a bid to retain the Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge trophy.
“Last year I got a little taste of just being around things on Boxing Day,” recalled the highly-rated back-rower.
“This year I am really looking forward to it.
“I know the crowd will be eager for the first game for a while and everybody will be keen to get out there.
“Wakey have recruited well and they have got some big boys in their squad – some big Aussies as well.
“A couple of my mates play for them; Judah Mazive is a good mate of mine and it will be good to get a run out and taste what it’s like against Super League opposition.”
The 18-year-old has been named in Rhinos’ starting line-up for next Monday’s fixture, though he could be switched to the substitutes’ bench, with Josh Walters taking a place in the second-row. Rhinos’ academy player of the year in 2016, Jordan-Roberts made his senior debut in September when an injury-hit Leeds side ended their campaign with a home win over Leigh Centurions.
Now promoted to the full-time squad – and the No 29 jersey – the Oulton Raiders product reckons training alongside some of Super League’s biggest names is a dream come true.
He said: “It is good coming up from a part-time environment and being around players who’ve been on international stages and some of the boys I have looked up to.
“I have supported this club from a very young age so it is good to get around the boys and see what it’s like in a full-time environment. I’ve had a little taste of what’s to come and hopefully I can push on now. I’m not expecting massive things, I’m not expecting to play regularly next year – I am expecting to just kick on from where I finished 2016, but it is good to be involved.
“I have still got a year left of under-19s rugby so I am hoping to play regularly there, kick-on and show Mac [coach Brian McDermott] what I am capable of.”
Leeds have been in pre-season for seven weeks and Jordan-Roberts insisted it is a time of the year he enjoys.
“It is good,” he said. “I find it pretty interesting. I like the science part of it and I enjoy pre-season – it gets you stronger, fitter, faster. It is part of rugby you have got to do at the end of the day and I like it.”
Jordan-Roberts’ father Robert Roberts played professionally for Hull, Halifax, Hunslet, Huddersfield, Leigh, Oldham and Barrow. He was also capped by Wales, was still playing in the National Conference for East Leeds last season, aged 38 and is part of the new backroom staff at Hunslet, alongside his former Oldham team-mate James Coyle and ex-coach Steve Deakin.
“He will be here on Boxing Day, he comes to most games,” Jordan-Roberts said.