NEW SIGNING Jordan Baldwinson will have plenty of reasons to play well when he pulls on a Wakefield Trinity shirt for the first time in anger on Tuesday morning.
Baldwinson has joined Trinity from their Boxing Day opponents Leeds Rhinos and will have a point to prove to both clubs in the Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge.
Despite being named the Championship’s young player of the year in 2015, during a spell on loan with Featherstone Rovers, the Hunslet Warriors product played only a fringe role at Leeds.
The move to Trinity offers him an opportunity to establish himself as a Betfred Super League front-rower and he insisted he is determined to make the most of his new chance – beginning with next week’s pre-season opener.
“I felt like I was being held back due to not enough game time,” Baldwinson said of his spell with Rhinos.
“Hopefully moving to Wakefield will allow me to progress, giving me more game time and a bit more opportunity to show what I can do.”
I tried to make the best of my opportunities, but I didn’t feel I was in Brian Mac’s [coach Brian McDermott’s] plans at Leeds. I’m very happy with the club I’ve signed for and I am looking forward to life at Wakefield.Jordan Baldwinson
After earning a reputation as one of the top forwards in the Championship during his time with Rovers, Baldwinson now wants to do the same at Super League level.
“That’s down to opportunities,” he said. “It was brilliant at Featherstone, I really enjoyed it, but I felt it was time to move on from that stage of my career.
“I have very good memories of Featherstone, but the next step is trying to get into Super League.
“I don’t think the 12 games I played last year was really enough to establish myself as a front-rower in Super League.
“I feel I need more exposure and to play more games to prove myself.
“The games I played at Featherstone held me in good stead and hopefully now I can take the next step forward and establish myself as a good young prop-forward in Super League.”
Baldwinson admitted not being given more chances at Leeds was “frustrating”.
He made his first-team debut in 2013, but left his hometown club to join New Zealand Warriors.
After returning to England he had a short spell with Bradford Bulls and a season-long loan at Featherstone.
He played once for Leeds in 2016 and a dozen games last year, spending the rest of his time at Rovers on loan or dual-registration.
Now 23, Baldwinson admitted to feeling “suffocated” by the lack of game time with Rhinos and said: “I tried to make the best of my opportunities, but I didn’t feel I was in Brian Mac’s [coach Brian McDermott’s] plans at Leeds.
“I’m very happy with the club I’ve signed for and I am looking forward to life at Wakefield.”
Baldwinson began pre-season training with his new teammates last month and is one of four close-season signings due to feature in three days’ time.
“It’s going really well, I am really enjoying it,” he said of preparations for the 2018 season.
“As soon as I got there the boys were really welcoming. Chezzy [coach Chris Chester] showed me round and introduced me to all the staff and training is going really well.
“I am feeling fit and I feel like I am fitting in nicely, so it’s so far, so good.”
Fellow forwards Justin Horo – signed from Catalans Dragons – and Pauli Pauli, who formerly played for Newcastle Knights, are also included in Trinity’s Boxing Day squad.
Full-back/stand-off Ryan Hampshire is likely to play just eight days after joining his hometown club from relegated Leigh Centurions.
Most of Wakefield’s Boxing Day team have top-flight experience, but Chester will also give a run out to teenage full-back Luke Hooley and highly-rated academy scrum-half Christian Ackroyd.
Trinity’s opening Super League game – at promoted Hull KR on Friday, February 2 – is still more than five weeks away, but Baldwinson insisted he is keen to get cracking and facing his former club will add spice to the festive clash.
“It would be a nice game to play in,” said Baldwinson, who was a substitute for Leeds when they were crushed 30-6 by Trinity at Headingley a year ago.
“I’m looking forward to it. I will have quite mixed emotions, I feel like I want to prove something to the Leeds fans who haven’t really seen me play properly and it’ll be nice to get out on the field and try and impress.
“It’s going to be nice to play against the good friends I’ve got at Leeds. It will be different playing against them rather than with them.
“I have spoken to a few of them and I’m quite excited about it.”
Trinity will be aiming for a third successive Boxing Day win. The game will be played at Belle Vue for the first time due to building work at Emerald Headingley.