Harry Newman: Leeds Rhinos’ Junior Senior

Harry Newman is a young man with a wise old head on his shoulders, determined to achieve success as well as avoiding the pitfalls it can bring. In the latest issue of Rugby League World magazine, Matthew Shaw finds out what makes him tick.

It’s the day before Harry Newman’s 20th birthday as he sits down, leant forward in a window seat of Headingley Cafe.
It means, of course, as you read this article that he is now no longer a teenager, though to look at him, you would probably think otherwise.
Yet when you speak to him you would be fooled into thinking he was far older. He has a wise and mature head on those young shoulders. He speaks enthusiastically about his first house that he bought recently, and the transition towards independence.
“I’ve seen it as a bit of investment really,” he said.
“To get on the property market early, I want to get it paid off as soon as I can.”
He continues: “You see players get into trouble all the time, so I thought I’d put my money into something early.
“It’s easy to get yourself into trouble, but by getting a house it helps keep you out of trouble. I’ll have to learn to do certain things. I can cook, but washing I’ll have to learn because my mum has done that for me all my life.”
As the conversation develops, he reveals he’s not much of a drinker. The profession should prevent him from going down that route anyway, but it hasn’t stopped others.
“It can be an issue with young athletes coming through, but to be honest, it’s saved me a lot of money.
“If you get that side wrong, no matter how good you are, it can mess up your career.”
Nothing seems to faze Newman. He talks down what, to many, are big challenges and sacrifices.
But that’s because, when you delve a little deeper, it becomes apparent that Newman is a deeply engrossed, highly focused athlete with one priority and one priority only.
“I want to be the best.
“I’ve always wanted to be a Rugby League player so that’s what I’ve always concentrated, doing what I need to do to be able to be the best I can at it.”
It’s that mentality that has allowed Newman to overcome rather big stages of his life with relative ease. Because in his eyes, it’s just a part of the process to get to where he wants to be.
He’s well on his way to getting there too, far quicker than even he could have possibly imagined 12 months ago as he acted as understudy to Kallum Watkins and Konrad Hurrell.
Yet now he is Leeds’ number three, a first-choice centre and a rapidly emerging star of the future.
He is speaking a few days after an outstanding performance against Hull KR, which saw him score twice, make 11 tackle busts and 136 metres.
This, from a youngster who you’d assume still get asks for ID when buying a scratch card.
But it’s easy to see now, less than a year after Leeds’ bold decision to part with Kallum Watkins, why they decided to put their faith in Newman instead.
Leeds made little secret of that faith at the time. It was a lot of pressure for one young man. But perhaps they saw in Newman what I’m seeing now.
“You could say it came with pressure, but I was 19 and just wanted to play so I was just excited,” he said.
“I think that helped me really because I was just excited to get better and learn and wasn’t really bothered about the pressure and the scrutiny. Looking back now, it was a big decision for the club, but I’m thankful to the club for believing in me, I’ve got to pay it back by performing on a weekend now.
“Unfortunately for Kallum it didn’t go the way he would have probably liked. I can’t thank him enough for what he did for me, but I had to work hard, and I did.
“I think a major part of professional sport is that you’ve got to believe in yourself and the team and if you start listening to what other people believe it can change the perception of yourself and your team.
“People are allowed their opinion, that’s fine, but I focus on what I know and how I can get better.”
Not that he’s completely inhuman, even this hard-to-bother youngster felt the pressure of the big stage at one point.
“The first few games especially, you’re just a young kid and they’re seasoned pros’ who know you play for Leeds and want to take you out.
“You know as a young kid the coach believes in you but is also expecting you to play well, and so are your teammates. I’d say it’s more nervous of messing up, certainly at the start, because you haven’t been working with the lads that long, probably the need to make a good impression too.
“But I think this is my third season with the first team and I’m used to the lads now. I’m confident in them and I think they’re comfortable with me too.”
Though don’t expect Newman to become comfortable within himself anytime soon. Not a chance.
“Just because I’ve played this amount of games now it doesn’t mean I’m going to play the same amount in the next ten years, not a chance.
“I’ve still got to work hard, I still have to get better and I want to be better, I want to be the best.”
It’s that mentality that seems to have gripped a generation of English players. By the end of this interview, there’s a comparison to be drawn with another young man who goes by the name of Morgan Smithies. They both possess the same steely focus.
“I’ve played with a lot of those lads when we beat Australia and I get on with a few of them, so I see it as a good thing that they’re playing well.
“You look at Morgan Smithies at Wigan, he’s a year younger than me and playing every week. There’s Matty Lees who got young player of the year last year then there’s Jack Walker here who I enjoy working with as we’re getting better together each and every day. There are the Senior boys, I played with them at Newsome, I’m glad they’re going good. It’s good for the future of the English game, but we’ve all got a big job of improving ourselves.”

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