LEEDS RHINOS youngster Alex Sutcliffe reckons a dual-registration spell at Featherstone Rovers paved the way for his Betfred Super League call-up.
At 20 Sutcliffe is now too old for Leeds’ academy side so joining another club was his only opportunity to keep match fit and show Rhinos’ coaching staff what he is capable of.
The centre scored four tries in seven appearances for Rovers – four of them wins, including three in succession – and his form there secured a promotion to Rhinos’ side for the 24-22 Magic Weekend win over London Broncos at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium.
“At the start of the season I wasn’t getting played, I wasn’t doing anything – I was literally just sitting there,” Sutcliffe recalled.
“Playing at Fev really boosted my confidence and it has given me some minutes I needed.
“Probably if I wasn’t playing at Fev I wouldn’t have got my chance.
“I am lucky everyone at Fev’s been good to me and taken me under their wing.”
Sutcliffe, who can also play in the second-row, made his Rhinos debut in a 34-0 defeat at Wigan Warriors in July, 2017.
He had a long wait for his second appearance, but was among the substitutes three days ago and made a positive contribution with a break which led to what proved to be the winning try for Richie Myler.
“I absolutely loved it,” said the Oulton Raiders product who was a member of Rhinos’ full-time squad last year without breaking into the team.
“It is a class stadium, a class place to be and I enjoyed every minute of it.
“I was very nervous, I had a bit of a dicky tummy before the game, but I thought I went all right.
“I didn’t get long, but when I was on I tried to make as much impact as I could.
“Now I just want to get as many minutes under my belt as I can.
“I am not bothered which position I play, I’ll just do my best for the team.”
Sutcliffe admitted there was a touch of fortune about his try assist. His pass inside, aimed at Kallum Watkins, wasn’t the best, but Myler was aware enough to pick up and swoop over. It was a memorable moment for Sutcliffe – no relation to namesake and team-mate Liam – and he recalled: “I don’t know about my pass, but I thought I did all right.
“As long as it worked out, I was happy. The main thing for us was to go there and get a win. It was a big occasion, but we tried to channel that out and it was just another game really and an extra two points we needed. Everyone was buzzing in the changing rooms and we just need to stick at it now and go again next week.”
Rhinos led 10-0 early on and by 14 points with 12 minutes left, but yet again almost squandered a comfortable lead.
“I think once we get into a tough situation we just need to keep grinding it out,” was Sutcliffe’s view of how Leeds can improve. “I think sometimes heads do go down and it is a bit of a confidence thing, but it’s nothing we can’t fix up.”
Meanwhile, Carl Ablett, who has not played this year, has suffered a setback in his recovery from two ankle operations. The veteran forward had hoped to be available for selection this month.