ASPIRING youngster Jordan Baldwinson is set to make his first appearance back in Leeds Rhinos colours – against the world’s No 1-ranked team New Zealand.
The prop, 21, originally came through the Academy ranks at Headingley and made his Super League debut in 2013.
However, Baldwinson moved to the NRL with New Zealand Warriors at the end of that season, playing for the club’s second-tier team in Auckland, before returning home for a loan spell with Bradford Bulls last term.
He has spent this season in great nick at Featherstone Rovers, picking up the Championship Young Player of the Year award in the process, and has re-signed for Leeds until 2017.
Baldwinson is set to get a run-out immediately in next Friday’s prestigious friendly against the Kiwis, the official farewell to legends Jamie Peacock, Kylie Leuluai – the props whose retirements open up an opportunity for him – and Kevin Sinfield.
Granted, head coach Brian McDermott has seen Man of Steel nominee Adam Cuthbertson and Brad Singleton establish themselves this season while Wests Tigers front-row Keith Galloway and Huddersfield Giants prop Anthony Mullally are also recruited to strengthen for 2016.
“Hopefully, if I work hard enough, I can impress Brian and get into his 25-man squad for next season, but I know how tough the competition is at the Rhinos,” admitted Baldwinson.
“Dropping out of Super League last season really spurred me on and I’m so grateful to Featherstone for giving me the chance to get regular game time in 2015.
“I know I am still a long way from achieving what I want to achieve, but I have taken a lot of confidence from this season.”
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ Ali Lauitiiti, the former Kiwi second-row still such a legend at Leeds, has accepted a guest invite to play New Zealand along with former Rhinos prop Adrian Morley.
On his own chances, Baldwinson added: “It would be great to be involved against the Kiwis especially as there are a few lads in their squad who I know from my time in the Warriors Under-20s.
“They are a hugely talented squad and rightfully now are the No 1 team in the world.
“It was a huge experience for me to go to New Zealand and play for the Warriors and I think I’m a better player and person for that.
“I know I need to keep working hard. Going to Featherstone was a big challenge for me because I have only just turned 21.
“However, I feel as a prop I am now reading the game better and know the standards that are expected of me.”
Featherstone, meanwhile, have recruited Sheffield Eagles winger Scott Turner and Doncaster second-row Steve Snitch for 2016.
Hull KR have signed utility back Ryan Shaw, 23, from Championship Bradford Bulls on a two-year deal.
The Cumbrian offers competition at full-back, centre and wing, having scored 17 tries in 25 games for Bradford this term after a move from Barrow Raiders.
Sheffield’s prolific centre Menzie Yere, 31, is staying on a rolling contract.