THERE’S A vibe around the club at the moment – I don’t know what it is, but something’s there.
That is Ashton Golding’s assessment as Leeds Rhinos approach the halfway point in the regular Betfred Super League season.
Golding, 21, is among a host of young players who have made a mark for Rhinos this term and – ahead of tonight’s clash with age-old rivals Wigan Warriors he says he is excited about what lies ahead.
“I am enjoying playing at the moment, which is good,” Golding stated.
“I am enjoying playing for Leeds, there’s a vibe about the place.
“I can’t put my finger on it, there’s just something there.
We know it’s going to be a tough game, but we are at home and we’ve got our crowd behind us so it should be fun.Ashton Golding
“We have got a great crop of players coming through and we are a really tight-knit group.
“Everything we do, we do together.
“It’s too early to put a stamp on what it is, but it is there, we know it in ourselves.
“We know our ability and we are sticking together and working hard.”
Golding has started the season well and was one of Rhinos’ top performers in the 28-26 win at Wakefield Trinity five days ago. He reflected: “Looking at my stats, I could say last week was probably my best game of the season so far, but defensively I didn’t really do much.
“It is just marrying the two together now and getting the games where I can play offensively and defensively together.”
Golding moved closer to the action after stand-off Liam Sutcliffe was substituted in the second half against Trinity.
“We were down to one half-back and I feel, as a full-back, it is a pivotal role,” he said.
“You have to step up in those situations. Hopefully my offensive game added something to the team and I can push on from there.
“Now I am looking forward to Wigan.”
Tonight is one of the big dates on the rugby league calendar. Wigan are second in the table, just one point clear of fourth-placed Rhinos.
Golding reckons clashes with Wigan are always special, whatever form the sides are in, and he said: “I don’t think there’s anything really between us.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game, but we are at home and we’ve got our crowd behind us so it should be fun.
“I love the Leeds-Wigan rivalry, there’s something there. I don’t know what it is, it can’t be explained, but there’s always something and I am looking forward to it.”
As a Leeds fan growing up and then coming through Rhinos’ youth system, Golding said Wigan have always been big rivals.
“Playing against Wigan in the academy, it was awesome,” he recalled. “Coming through to the first team it has stayed the same. For me, Cas and Wakey are always big games because they are local ones – same with Huddersfield – but there is something about Wigan.”
Tonight’s game will give Golding an opportunity to measure himself against a former England full-back in Wigan’s Sam Tomkins.
“I have watched him play coming through,” Golding said.
“He is someone I’ve thought ‘if I could just do that like him’ many times.
“He is a fantastic player and playing in games like this, playing against that calibre of player, can only make me better.
“It’s the same when I play against Hull and Jamie Shaul, you kind of do your own thing, but you are watching to see how they are doing and what they are doing and if you can implement it.
“We’ve got Wigan and then Hull so it’s two big games. It is going to be tough, but I think we’ve got a lot of strength in depth and hopefully we’ll get a few bodies back.
“It doesn’t matter who has the shirt, what matters is that whoever has the shirt is giving 100 per cent and that is showing.”
Golding’s rival for the full-back role Jack Walker has missed two games because of an ankle injury and is not in contention tonight, but could return against Hull. When Walker has played, either from the start or brought on at full-back, Golding has switched into the acting-half role, allowing Matt Parcell to have a rest on the bench.
“It’s another pivotal role,” Golding said.
“You just run about and tackle and make a few decisions passing!
“I find myself quite physically fit and it is very demanding in the middle. It is a completely different energy system you’re using and you get tired pretty quick, but I enjoy it.”