Former Hull Kingston Rovers forward James Donaldson has signed a one-year contract with Leeds Rhinos after impressing coach David Furner while on trial with the club in recent weeks.
Originally from Cumbria, Donaldson spent four seasons with Hull Kingston Rovers before leaving them at the end of last season. He made 73 Super League appearances for Bradford Bulls between 2009 and 2014 before moving to the Robins in 2015. He made 42 Super League appearances for Rovers as well as helping them gain promotion from the Championship two years ago. He also appeared in the 2015 Challenge Cup Final against Leeds at Wembley for Rovers.
The former Wath Brow amateur said, “I am over the moon to have my contract situation all sorted. It has been a tough few months for myself and my family but to have finally put pen to paper is a massive relief. There is no better way for me to start 2019 than to have agreed this new deal with the Rhinos. It is a really big opportunity for myself and I am looking forward to continuing to work hard to earn my spot in the team.”
Donaldson appeared off the bench for the Rhinos in their Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge win over Wakefield on Boxing Day at Emerald Headingley. He admits he is looking forward to the year ahead with the Rhinos. He added, “My aim from day one has been to try and impress Dave Furner and the rest of the coaching staff here at the Rhinos. I am glad I got the opportunity to come and train with Leeds and, I would like to think that, I have taken that chance with both hands. I am looking forward to kicking on now and I am hoping to prove myself at a top team.
“It is a relief but the hard work starts now for me. What I do on the field is what counts. There is still a lot of improvement for us before the season starts in a couple of weeks but everyone is feeling good. We had a mini-camp together last week which was really good. It was tough but we got through a lot of work both on the field and in meetings as the coaching staff really clarified what they are looking for from the team this season. It was a chance to get away from the training ground and get to know the boys a bit more,” added Donaldson.
The forward, who has also made appearances for Dewsbury and York City Knights during his career, has been awarded the 25 squad number, which had initially been left vacant when the Rhinos squad numbers were announced before Christmas. The Rhinos next game is this Sunday when they travel to the Keepmoat Stadium to face Doncaster in the Kyle Kesik Testimonial game, with Donaldson and a number of first team squad members likely to feature.
He added, “The intensity in training is going up by the day now that we are in the New Year and everyone is getting excited about the start of the new season. We all want to put our best foot forward to get a spot in the team to face Warrington in less than a month and that is making things nice and competitive in training. I am sure the games over the next fortnight, starting against Doncaster on Sunday, will be a good chance for all the squad to show what they can do.”