Trialist James Donaldson out to make a lasting impression with Leeds Rhinos

Trialist forward, James Donaldson. PIC: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Trialist forward, James Donaldson. PIC: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
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TRIALIST JAMES Donaldson is hopeful his first appearance for Leeds Rhinos won’t be his last.

Donaldson was praised by coach David Furner after playing as a substitute in last week’s opening pre-season win over Wakefield Trinity.

Leeds Rhinos head oach David Furner and director of rugby Kevin Sinfield. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Leeds Rhinos head oach David Furner and director of rugby Kevin Sinfield. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The 27-year-old former Bradford Bulls forward had been offered the chance to train with Leeds after being released by Hull KR at the end of last season and is aiming to secure a contract for 2019.

Donaldson said he “absolutely loved” his first run out in blue and amber and is now keen to meet with Furner and director of rugby Kevin Sinfield to discuss his future.

“It is what you dream of, playing against Leeds, but playing for them is on a totally different level,” he said.

“I have loved my training with the boys and hopefully it will continue.”

Leeds Rhinos assistant coach, James Lowes. PIC: JPIMedia

Leeds Rhinos assistant coach, James Lowes. PIC: JPIMedia

The Cumbrian has 115 Super League appearances under his belt, but reckons Leeds can take his game to a new level.

“I am learning new things,” he stressed.

“I think my game might change here under Dave and there’s no better people you’d want to learn off than Dave, Kev and Jimmy [Lowes, Rhinos’ assistant-coach] to add different things to my game.

“Hopefully I can only get better from here.”

Donaldson predicted his style will become “more direct” if he stays at Leeds.

He added: “The way they want to defend, the way they want to play, a bit more expansive.

“They want to play nice rugby, using the middles rather than just tucking it under the arm and ramping up.

“It is a really positive thing for my game. It brings speed on as well which can hopefully help the team.”

Sides will be allowed only eight changes next season, reduced from 10 and that could suit Donaldson, who was pleased with the game time he got last week.

“I had two weeks’ training and played 40 minutes,” he said.

“I feel like I’ve fitted in from day one.

“My first training session was at Headingley and they threw me in there, they didn’t tell me any plays, they just put me in the drill, 13 on 13 and said do your best.

“That’s the way I’ve gone. I’ve picked it up and I love the boys, love the club and have really enjoyed it.” Donaldson, who lives in Leeds, signed a month’s trial two weeks ago.

He had been training, along with former Leeds player Chris Clarkson who was also not retained by Hull KR, before the opportunity came to link up with Rhinos. He said of being without a contract: “I can’t explain how tough it has been mentally, not just for me, but for my family as well.

“It has been hard, but it was good being able to get out there and do what I love – and offer what I can offer. I have always said I want to play Super League because I have got something to offer.

“I am coming to training each day, ripping in and hoping for the best.”