Ploughing on - how one Leeds Rhinos youngster stayed fit during lockdown
Rural life has helped Leeds Rhinos’ young prospect Tom Holroyd come out of lockdown in good shape.
The 19-year-old prop, who lives on a farm in West Yorkshire, is widely tipped as the next big thing to emerge from Rhinos’ youth set up.
He has already had a taste of top-flight action - with one substitute appearance in 2018 and three last year - and was a member of Rhinos’ initial 21-man squad for their Betfred Super League return against Huddersfield Giants five days ago.
That ended a five-month rugby drought, due to coronavirus, but Holroyd has been kept busy - and fit - by agricultural duties.
“It’s just above Hebden Bridge, mainly beef plus a few sheep,” he said of the farm where he spends his time away from rugby.
“There’s always something to do; just towards the end of the lockdown we got 15 pigs so I’m still busy with them now.
“It is good for a rugby player, from a training aspect it is brilliant - there’s lots of hay bales and that’s the main thing around summer.”
Holroyd wasn’t included in the final 17 last week, but coach Richard Agar has confirmed the former England academy powerhouse is part of his plans for the rest of this season.
“It is nice to hear things like that,” the youngster - who was a member of a dominant Siddal side during his junior rugby days - said.
“It pushes you on and lets you know you are that bit closer to actually playing.
“That’s what we all aim for.”
Rhinos will go into this Sunday’s visit of St Helens on a five-game winning run and, despite the five-month gap between matches, Agar fielded an unchanged team last weekend.
There will be at least one player drafted in on Sunday, with hard-woking forward James Donaldson sidelined due to a back injury.
Leeds have 15 league matches still to play - and at least one Coral Challenge Cup tie - before the Super League semi-finals in mid-November so young players are likely to be given a chance at some stage.
The fixture pile-up - which sees teams facing five league fixtures, plus the Challenge Cup semi-finals and final in October - will test squads to the limit, but for Holroyd, it is an opportunity.
“There will be tired bodies and it is a good situation for me to prove my name,” the 6ft 2,ins 17st front-rower said.
“I want to show I am not just a player that fills in when there’s an injury, I want to be in that team consistently.”
Holroyd was denied more senior appearances last year by a series of injuries.
He impressed in pre-season, particularly when Rhinos won at Wigan Warriors in January and admitted the Covid-19 stoppage was a “frustrating” for him and the team.
“I thought I was getting on to a bit of a roll,” he reflected.
“But I have been working hard over lockdown so I am in a good place.”
Super League and the Challenge Cup are this year’s sole survivors with coronavirus having wiped out the academy and reserve competitions as well as Betfred Championship and League One.
That means it is Super League or nothing for players like Holroyd, who would otherwise have been an option for Featherstone Rovers on dual-registration in the Championship.
The teenager insisted: “It is frustrating when you are not in the team, but it is [about] waiting your turn and when you get a chance, taking it.
“You do everything for the team, you can’t let it show you are frustrated - you have to keep cracking on.”
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