SHOOTING STAR Ash Handley admits he is starting again this year after another unexpected call-up for Leeds Rhinos.
History has repeated itself for the Oulton Raiders product, who was drafted into the side early last year – after playing just one game in 2014 – following an injury to Tom Briscoe.
He made his initial appearance of the First Utility Super League campaign in a round-six win over Wigan in March and went on to play 20 times, scoring 13 tries.
That earned him the Yorkshire Evening Post award as the club’s most impressive youngster.
The call-up came slightly earlier this year, after Briscoe suffered ankle damage in Leeds’ second match of the season, at Widnes Vikings.
Handley was recalled from a dual-registration stint with Featherstone Rovers to play in the Dacia World Club Challenge, against Australian champions North Queensland Cowboys and bagged his first Leeds try of 2016 against Catalans Dragons last week.
Handley, who celebrated his 20th birthday on February 16, proved last year he can play at Super League level, but reckons he needs to re-establish himself this term.
“I think it all starts again,” he said.
“I wasn’t in the team for the first few games and, having been thrown back in there, it is going to be hard to adapt, but I will get my confidence soon and get back into the swing of this.”
Handley said the fact coach Brian McDermott was willing to put him straight into the team when Briscoe became unavailable gave him a big lift.
“Mac saw how I did in training and he has said he has no worries about me coming in, whether it’s one of these games [Super League] or the World Club Challenge, so I have got the confidence of the coaches – I just need to find some myself.
“I have been a bit nervous over the past couple of weeks. I need to get some games under my belt and build some confidence up.
“I think I played quite well [last Saturday].
“I had some decent carries and got over for a try as well. I was happy with my own performance, but obviously we need to work on our team performance and, hopefully, we will get a win this week.”
Results have not been going Leeds’ way, but Handley feels he is gaining experience every week.
“It was a bit of an eye-opener going from playing for Featherstone against Batley to playing in the World Club Challenge,” he admitted. “They are the best team in the world now. That was a big game and [last Saturday] was a big test as well. They are a big side.”
Rhinos return to Headingley tomorrow when they face the only other team without a point, Huddersfield Giants.
“We will come good soon,” Handley predicted.
“There wasn’t much in it [last week].
“I know we will get back on track, we just need to work on a few things and we will get back soon.”
Meanwhile, Leeds Academy take on Wakefield Academy today, at Stanningley, kick-off 7pm.