Donaldson hoping impressive debut can lead to permanent Leeds deal for 2019

James Donaldson has revealed how he applied for a job outside Rugby League as he faced an uncertain future in the game – but he now looks likely to win a deal with Leeds Rhinos for 2019.

Donaldson played in over half of Leeds’ Boxing Day win over Wakefield, having signed a month’s trial with the Rhinos last week to try and earn a contract for the coming season having been surprisingly released by Hull KR at the end of 2018.

League Express understands that the Rhinos’ hierarchy have been impressed with how Donaldson has applied himself at Leeds in training – and the Cumbrian forward admitted after his first appearance for the club that it would be a ‘dream come true’ to sign.

“I was training on my own and I put all my eggs in this basket,” he said.

“Before it happened, I applied for a part-time job to help tick me over while I didn’t have a club. I actually got an interview for the job after a couple of days too, but I won’t say what the job was!

“It was initially going to happen a few weeks earlier but then it didn’t – then Kevin (Sinfield) called me and offered me the trial: and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Donaldson will continue to train with Leeds – but is hopeful he has already done enough to persuade Sinfield and coach Dave Furner that he can add value to Leeds in 2019 having previously been left out of work following his sudden release from Rovers.

“Hopefully I can sit down with them in the next few days and properly sort my future and give me peace of mind,” Donaldson explained.

“I can’t explain how tough it’s been, not just for me but for my family too. It’s been hard, really hard, but getting out there and being able to do what I love and offer what I truly think I can offer, it’s fantastic. I’m hoping for the best outcome now.

“I’ve really enjoyed it; I’m learning new things and I think my game might change under Dave if I sign for 2019. I can only get better from here. I think I’ll be playing more direct, but the coaching staff want to use the middles and have them playing the ball a bit more which will really suit me.

“I felt like I’d fitted in from day one. My first session at Headingley, they threw me in and didn’t tell me any plays and told me to do my best and that’s what I’ve done. I love the boys, I love the club and I’m really enjoying my time here.”