THE SUPER League debut of Wakefield Trinity’s 19-year-old winger Lee Kershaw ended in tears, and a man-of-the-match award.
Two weeks after playing on loan for Oldham in a League One defeat at Newcastle Thunder, Kershaw’s next game was in Wakefield colours as he helped them to one of their most memorable wins of the summer era.
With 12 senior players unavailable, including winger Tom Johnstone and centres Bill Tupou and Joe Arundel, Kershaw was recalled and thrown in at the deep end of Easter Monday’s derby against Leeds Rhinos at Belle Vue.
Far from being a weak link, the rookie ran in a long-range try to open the scoring and made some strong carries as Trinity completed their first home and away double over Leeds in Super League.
Trinity’s coach Chris Chester revealed “Lee was a bit emotional after the game.
“He was after we played Leeds on Boxing Day because he didn’t think he had the best of games and he was emotional this time – there were some tears in his eyes – because he has got his opportunity and played really well.”
The player himself was happy to confirm Chester’s comments.
“I am a bit like that,” he conceded.
“I was all right until I saw my mum and dad in the crowd.
“I have been waiting for that day for years so when it came I started blubbing.”
Wakefield’s academy has already produced one England winger, Johnstone who has been sidelined for the rest of this season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Kershaw’s first game at the top level suggested he is another player with a bright future.
“I could not ask for much more – a win and a try,” Kershaw said of his memorable debut, which got off to a flying start when he dashed 80m to score from his centre Mason Caton-Brown’s offload.
“I have to say thanks to Mason for the try. If he had got away I think he would have scored.
“He is fast, but as soon as I got it I just carried on running.
“I was looking around, I saw someone on my inside, but I just kept going and got it down in the end.”
Kershaw’s powerful carries were even more impressive than the pace he displayed for his touchdown.
Rhinos targeted him with their kicking game, but he coped under the pressure and returned the ball with interest, proving difficult for Leeds’s defenders to pull down.
“That’s what they really use me for,” he said of his clearing runs.
“That is my strong point, they say.
“Obviously I have got other things to work on like my defensive reads.
“That’s what I will look back at from this game and previous games and try and touch up on.”
In a strange quirk, Kershaw has been playing on the opposite Oldham flank to Aaron Jones-Bishop, whose brother Ben was Trinity’s right-winger on Monday.
Of the step up from part-time rugby in League One, he said: “Super League is a lot faster, the lads are a lot bigger.
“I was walking out and thinking, ‘I’m the smallest player on the pitch’.
“It is another level, but I got lucky with a few breaks and Mason passing the ball.
“I did my best and it came out well for us.
“Before the game I walked out just to soak the atmosphere in a bit and see what’s what.
“There were only a couple of thousand in and then when I came out for the warm-up there were a lot more.
“That got to me a bit. I was a bit nervous, but in the second half I got more comfortable with it and felt a bit better.”