Teenage prop Tom Holroyd targets first-team footy with Leeds Rhinos

PROPS MAY often play their best rugby in their 30s, but Leeds Rhinos teenager Tom Holroyd has pledged to make an impact somewhat sooner.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 6:00 am
Leeds Rhinos prop, Tom Holroyd. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe/JPIMedia

Now 18, Holroyd made his Betfred Super League debut for Leeds Rhinos in 2018, his first year in the academy, when he had a run-out as a substitute in a home defeat by Catalans Dragons.

He added three more substitute appearances to that in the early stages of last season, but then a series of unconnected injuries wrecked his year.

The Halifax-born powerhouse had, by that stage, already been earmarked as a potential first-team star by Richard Agar, who took over as coach in May and quickly pin-pointed Holroyd as someone who could break through in 2020.

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Tom Holroyd in action for England Academy against the touring Australian Schoolboys. PIC: Paul Butterfield

With Brad Singleton having joined Toronto Wolfpack and Trent Merrin returned home – plus the retirement on Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Carl Ablett – there is an opportunity for Leeds’ next generation to show what they can do.

Holroyd was given his first chance of his year last Sunday when he was named among the substitutes for a pre-season game at Wigan Warriors.

Against strong opposition, Agar wasn’t afraid to throw Holroyd in at the deep end and the England academy front-rower did not look out of place in that first-team environment.

“I am hoping to get quite a bit more game time this year,” Holroyd confirmed.

Leeds Rhinos head coach, Richard Agar. PIC: Simon Hulme/JPIMedia

“I want to get that under my belt, being a young lad.”

For Holroyd, a product of the famous Siddal community club, just getting back on the field was a significant step forward.

Of last year, he recalled: “I had a syndesmosis [ankle ligament injury] against Castleford.

“I came back, just got back fit and then three games later I broke my foot.

Tom Holroyd proved more than a handful for Wigan last Sunday. PIC: Tony Johnson/JPIMedia

“And at the end of the year I found out I had broken my wrist as well! I had a shocking year, really.

“I am glad to be out of it.”

Holroyd did manage to get in some games for Rhinos under-19s before the wrist damage was diagnosed.

“I only found out in late September it was broken – and I broke it in December,” he revealed.

“I am fully fit now and raring to go.”

Holroyd has all the physical credentials to make it right to the top, standing at 6ft 2ins tall and weighing almost 18 stone. Agar described him as “a real bright spot” in the win at Wigan and noted: “It was a terrific opportunity to have a look at him.

“He has not played for nine months, but we think he is a huge talent coming through and it was a really positive display from him after being out so long. He has only been back with us two or three weeks.

“He has plenty to learn, but he is a big strong boy, he carries the ball really well and he’s aggressive.”

Holroyd clearly has time on his side, but he doesn’t want to hang about.

“I am ready to play,” he insisted.

“I am after a spot this year.

“I am hoping to prove my point and earn myself a solid place in the team. I want to be a consistent player.

“No matter my age, I think I have got something to prove for the team.”

With the golden generation now only a memory, Rhinos are entering a new era.

This has been Agar’s first pre-season in charge at Rhinos and recruits Luke Gale, Kruise Leeming, Alex Mellor, Matt Prior and Rhyse Evans have freshened up what is largely a young squad.

And academy international Holroyd said: “Everyone’s buzzing. It is the best spirit I have ever seen and the trip away to Spain [for warm weather training] definitely helped us.

“It was brilliant for me, my first experience away with the lads properly, and it was good to be constantly around the lads and getting a feel for it.”

He added: “They really made me feel welcome and there’s a good team spirit here.”