Mikolaj Oledzki has his eye on the Leeds Rhinos’ front-row prize
AT JUST 21, Mikolaj Oledzki is still young for a Betfred Super League front-rower, but the Polish-born giant reckons it is now time to establish himself as one of Leeds Rhinos’ first-choice forwards.
Oledzki made his debut in 2017, played 22 times for Rhinos the following year and added another 21 games last season, but felt he did not kick on the way he would have liked.
He featured only twice in Rhinos’ final nine matches of the campaign and did not play between the end of June and start of September.
The guard is changing at Rhinos – particularly in the pack and with props Nathaniel Peteru and Brad Singleton both having departed since the end of last term, along with Trent Merrin and Brett Ferres who filled in as front-rowers at times – and Oledzki knows he needs to step up.
The England Knights man, who looked strong as one of the starting 13 in Rhinos’ Boxing Day win over Wakefield Trinity, insisted he knows what went wrong at the end of the 2019 season and is determined to make up for that disappointing finale.
“I didn’t finish last year like I wanted to, personally,” Oledzki admitted. “I didn’t think I was up to the right standard and that’s probably why I didn’t play as much. But I have worked on certain stuff I needed to work on and I felt like [last week] I managed to correct the stuff I wanted to improve on and I thought I put a better display on.”
The past 12 months were far from straightforward for Leeds who began the 2019 season under a new coach, Dave Furner, but ended it with Richard Agar in charge.
Player turnover has been huge and Oledzki reckons the new year means a new start.
The golden generation, that dominated the 2000s and 2010s, have moved on and he is among a new crop of young players – only three of the 2020 squad will be aged 30 or older when the season begins on February 2 – the club hope will take them to more success over the next decade.
“The stadium is ready, the fans are behind us and everything’s fresh,” Oledzki stated.
“The team is fresh and we look in great shape, everyone’s fit and I think it is going to be a good year for us.”
Rhinos’ players were given some time off after the Christmas fixture and will return to training on Thursday.
They are due to travel to Spain on Saturday for a warm-weather training camp before facing Bradford Bulls in Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s testimonial game at Emerald Headingley on January 12, which is also a fundraiser for Rob Burrow.
Oledzki said: “Last year, at the start of the season, I think we missed being organised and finishing sets well and backing up with our defence.
“I feel like we have improved on that; we finish our sets better and we back it up with good D [defence] and scramble well, but there’s still a lot to do. We spoke about that after the [Boxing Day] game.
“That was a good win for us to see where we are with the things we’ve been working on, but we’ve still got a month to go before the season starts and a few things we still need to work on and correct.
“We have to sharpen up in certain areas, but I think it is all coming together well.”