‘Invaluable’ Leeds Rhinos forward James Donaldson hailed ahead of testimonial

ASH HANDLEY says his Leeds teammate James Donaldson remains a real driving force at the Rhinos.

The stalwart backrower will go into his sixth season at Headingley on the back of a testimonial match against his former club Hull KR, which outside back Handley says is well deserved.

Rovers, for whom 32-year-old Cumbrian Donaldson played between 2015 and 2018, visit on Sunday, February 4.

Leeds, who head to Bradford, Donaldson’s first professional club, on Sunday, having beaten Wakefield 41-22 on Boxing Day, start their Super League fixtures at home to Salford on Friday, February 16.

Whitehaven-born Donaldson has that game in his sights after playing 18 times last season, his value to his club having been underlined when he agreed a one-year contract extension back in August.

He was without an employer after coming out of contract at Hull KR when Leeds signed him, initially on a one-year-deal, going into the 2019 campaign.

Handley, 27, who made his Leeds debut in 2014, said: “James was training on his own when the club brought him in on trial.

“You could say they took a chance on him, but he has more than repaid that faith, because he’s a big influence on and off the pitch.

“He’s a good, reliable player and a great teammate, not just with how he is out on the field but also around the group.

“The connections he builds with people and the camaraderie he brings about the place is invaluable.

“You want to go out into a game alongside him, but you also want to go out for a coffee with him after training.

“When he asks how you are doing, or about your family, it’s not just a token gesture. He really wants to know.”