SCHOOLBOY Ashton Golding admits he was “pleasantly surprised” to be called up for his first full Leeds Rhinos appearance after the club decided to drop England full-back Zak Hardaker.
Golding, who will sit his A-Levels at Pudsey’s Priesthorpe School in June, made his maiden Super League start in Friday’s 18-6 defeat at Warrington Wolves, his first senior game since debuting off the bench at London Broncos last August.
He was told on Thursday he would feature at Halliwell Jones Stadium after Rhinos opted not to include Hardaker due to the fact police wanted to question him about an alleged assault in Leeds last month.
Golding, just 18 and rated as one of the game’s best youngsters, equipped himself well in testing circumstances despite his club losing their 100 per cent start.
“There were no nerves, it was mainly excitement,” he said.
“I was really excited to get out there, to start the game and to get a feel for it throughout the 80 minutes. It was really enjoyable. Obviously the result didn’t go our way, but personally, it was a good step in my development and I felt I achieved most of the goals I set myself.”
Leeds coach Brian McDermott never feared putting the teenager in the line of fire mainly because of the way he has seen the player handle himself already.
Golding won man-of-the-match when England Academy defeated the Australian Schoolboys over the winter and impressed again in Leeds’s Boxing Day fixture with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, meaning he went on the club’s warm-weather training camp to Florida.
“I was – I don’t want to say shocked because I don’t like to back against myself – but I was pleasantly surprised when I got the nod,” he added, about the Warrington game and hoping to be involved once more when Wigan Warriors arrive at Headingley on Friday.
“It was something big for me. The game against London will stick with me forever and so will this one, for my full 80-minute debut. I am learning every day, rubbing shoulders with people like Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock.”