Top try-scorer Ash Handley has not ruled out move to the centres at Leeds Rhinos
LEEDS RHINOS’ player of the year Ash Handley has not ruled out a shift from left-wing back to the centre.
The 2019 campaign was Handley’s debut as a first-choice winger and he ended it as the club’s top try scorer – and joint-second on the Betfred Super League chart – with 22 touchdowns.
Having played for England in the World Cup Nines and been part of the Great Britain squad, Handley is now on the verge of full Test honours as a winger, but the 23-year-old also impressed when he spent much of the 2018 season at centre and admits that is his preferred position.
“I wouldn’t ever say I am only a winger,” the former Oulton Raiders junior stressed.
“I will play anywhere – wing, full-back or centre. I probably like centre the best, I prefer that, but I enjoyed it on the wing last season and I’ll enjoy playing on the wing this year as well.”
Rhinos have left two vacancies in their 2020 squad and coach Richard Agar and director of rugby Kevin Sinfield are looking to fill one of them with an outside-back.
Leeds lack experienced cover in the full-back, centre and wing roles, but Handley insists he is confident in the players around him.
He said: “There’s a lot of talent and we’ve got a few players who can step in and play those positions – people like Liam Sutcliffe and Luke Briscoe who can easily step in and play centre or wing.
“We might need a few extra people if anyone went down injured but, at the minute, we look all right.”
Meanwhile, Handley is adamant his futile dash to the other side of the world last month was not a waste of time.
The Leeds man received a late call into the Great Britain squad for the final Test of their southern hemisphere tour, but was then controversially not selected for the game in Papua New Guinea – having missed Rhinos training to make the 11,000 mile trek to Brisbane and then Port Moresby.
Lions coach Wayne Bennett opted to stick with Blake Austin, a half-back, on the left-flank so Handley had to watch from the stands as Great Britain suffered a fourth successive defeat.
He admitted: “Obviously I was disappointed; I was hoping to be playing in that last game but it was an experience to be involved in the GB squad and, obviously, my name is in the hat for the next time England or GB games come around.
“I am in the mix and, hopefully if I am playing well, there’s no reason why I won’t be in the mix again next year.”
After a delayed start, Handley is now training with Rhinos and “loving the feel around the place”.
He said: “I’ve been back a few weeks now and feeling good. I got a lot of confidence from last year and I’m ready to kick on again and have an even better year next year.”
Handley is now a season into his left-side partnership with centre Konrad Hurrell and excited about the prospect of getting on the end of recruit Luke Gale’s work in midfield.
“I am looking forward to it,” he added. “I have a good relationship with Konny and we gelled quite quickly this year.
“That should carry on and, hopefully, Galey can spray the ball out to me a bit more and bring a new dimension to our left side.”