England v Tonga: Leeds Rhinos' Harry Newman in little mood to rest ahead of big 12 months
The centre is out of contract at the end of 2024 and reckons Rhinos’ new-look side will be challenging for honours after their disappointing eighth-placed finish in Betfred Super League this term.
So, with potentially two games still to go in his campaign, he is already looking forward to getting stuck into pre-season, buoyed by his long-awaited first experience with England.
Newman is set to earn his second cap in his hometown of Huddersfield on Saturday, six days after his debut in England’s opening Test win over Tonga. The series concludes at AMT Headingley a week later, just two days before the first batch of Rhinos players report in to begin pre-season.
Newman is the only Rhinos player involved in the Test series. Winger Ash Handley (foot) and props Tom Holroyd (knee) and Mikolaj Oledzki (shoulder) were in the performance squad, but withdrew because of injury.
The 23-year-old, who has battled back from a series of long-term injuries said: “I am going into the final year of my contract at Leeds. We will see what happens there, but I’ll be going into pre-season happy.
“I’ll have a quick break as soon as I’ve finished with England, but I want to get straight back into it. I want a good pre-season; I have not had one for three years so I will be ripping in with Leeds.”
Chief executive Gary Hetherington has described 2024 as a “pivotal” year for Leeds and a fully-fit Newman will be a huge asset, playing alongside the new spine of full-back Lachie Miller, Matt Frawley and Brodie Croft in the halves and Andy Ackers as hooker. Rhinos have also signed centre Paul Momirovski and forward Mickael Goudemand and Newman said: “They have invested massively.
“Brodie Croft is a former Man of Steel and Andy Ackers is another massive signing. We have got a whole new spine and it is going to be different - we have got some fast players, skilful players and it is exciting for me. There’ll be some great opportunities and I am just looking forward to getting back into it. I played the most games I have for three years this season, even with an injury in between.”
In the meantime, England have a Test series to win, having got off to a positive start with last week’s 22-18 success at St Helens. Newman described that as the most physical game of his career and is expecting more of the same on Saturday.
He said. “Super League is very physical, but [last week] was relentless. With 10 minutes to go we were 10 points up, then Tonga score a try with two minutes to go and it’s still all on. We have to be tough, you can never switch off.
“Half or three-quarters of their team are NRL players, they are superstars over there. We have some of those as well, but you can’t switch off mentally in a game like that or they will catch you out.”
The opener was Newman’s first game since Rhinos ended their Super League campaign with a 46-0 win over Castleford Tigers four weeks earlier. He played the full 80, was pleased with his conditioning and feels he will get better as the series goes on.
He also insisted he has taken onboard comments from coach Shaun Wane, who has made no secret of his admiration for Newman’s talent, but questioned his overly-competitive nature at times. Newman said: “We had some honest chats. They are for me and him to know about, I am not going into detail, but I thought [last week] was a massive step and it showed what I am all about.”