Why Leeds Rhinos released Ashton Golding - but left the door open if things don't work out at Huddersfield Giants
Leeds Rhinos boss Richard Agar has explained full-back Ashton Golding’s departure from the club - and said he would be welcome back “no problem” if things don’t work out elsewhere.
Golding left Rhinos last autumn for Huddersfield Giants and is set to make his debut for them against his previous side at Emerald Headingley on Sunday when Betfred Super League restarts following its coronavirus shutdown.
In an ironic twist to a clash between the teams in fourth and third spot on the table, Leeds could hand a first appearance to former Huddersfield hooker Kruise Leeming who joined them a month after Golding’s exit.
Both players’ previous competitive game was also against each other at Headingley, last October, when full-back Golding featured for Jamaica and Leeming was on duty with England Knights in a one-off Test.
Golding has recovered from a hamstring injury suffered in a pre-season game at Wakefield Trinity and Giants coach Simon Woolford confirmed it is “highly likely” he will play this weekend.
Agar said: “It is important with Ashton to say how much he is respected within our squad - and not just our squad, but also within our club and from the coaching staff.
“As a coach I would be perfectly happy to have Ashton in our squad and if it didn’t work out for him at Huddersfield I’d take him back, no problem, because he is such a wonderful professional and a good player.”
Leeds-born Golding, 23, made his Rhinos debut in 2014 and scored 14 tries and 14 goals in 63 appearances.
Having come through Rhinos’ academy ranks, he was handed the number one jersey ahead of the 2016 campaign and signed a new five-year contract the following season, only for Jack Walker to emerge as a new full-back prospect.
Though Walker took over the number one spot, the pair shared the role in 2018, when Golding also filled in as a substitute hooker.
But Golding was selected just once last year, scoring two tries in a Coral Challenge Cup win over Workington Town and left the club to join Huddersfield, with a year remaining on his contract, in October.
Dave Furner was coach when Golding made his only Leeds appearance of 2019, but the full-back scored seven tries in 22 games for Featherstone Rovers on dual-registration and was a key member of their squad which reached the Betfred Championship Grand Final from fifth place on the table.
“We were in a position where we had two full-backs with not much in terms of age between them,” Agar said.
“It is probably fair to say Jack Walker had nudged his way in front of Ashton over a period of time.
“I guess there was a bit of a salary cap business decision in that, in terms of letting Ashton look around, but at the same time he played nearly a full season with Featherstone and was one of the best players in the Championship.
“The kid needed to be a first grade player, or at least test himself to be a first grade player and if we couldn’t offer him that opportunity over a given period of time, then for his own career he was probably a bit too good to be sat out of that top-17 every week.
“They were the reasons; he absolutely went with our best wishes and I spoke to him when he left to say if at any point it doesn’t work out, he’s the type of player you’d love to have back in the camp, such is his day-to-day professionalism, the enthusiasm and the talk he brings.
“He is a great kid, a great team player and a wonderful person to have around the joint.”
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