James Bentley says he is loving life on and off the field this year as he prepares to make his first Grand Final appearance for his boyhood club Leeds.
The Ireland international made the hard decision to leave dominant champions St Helens at the end of last season to pursue his dream of playing for the Rhinos.
The campaign didn’t start the way Bentley was hoping it would though. A couple of suspensions were sent his way and the Rhinos found themselves in the bottom four before head coach Rohan Smith came in.
But there has been an incredible turnaround at Headingley. Smith’s side launched a late surge in the regular season to snatch a place in the play-offs. And on Saturday, they will come up against his former club St Helens in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.
“It wasn’t an easy decision (to leave St Helens),” Bentley told Love Rugby League. “But it was one that I thought was right for me.
“People told me ‘you probably won’t play in a Grand Final again’ but I’m here again”
“I’m looking forward to playing at Old Trafford for the first time.
“My goal at the start of the year was to play in the Grand Final and if you’d have asked me who I’d want to play against it would be Saints.
“I think we were 11th at one point and I was thinking at that point there was no chance we’d make it this year. But once Rohan came in things started to change and we started playing as a team, we’d built that confidence and had the belief that we were able to achieve that.
“We are a group of players who’ve got confidence and belief that we can win and that’s massive in sport.”
James Bentley getting stuck in away from rugby league
The 24-year-old likes to keep occupied away from rugby league, and has delved into property development.
He’s currently renovating his second house. Bentley laughed when I asked him about whether he’s the Deon Dublin of rugby league!
“I get stuck into that and I enjoy doing it,” Bentley added. “It’s something a little bit different.
“It’s something I’ve always been interested in. I bought my first house and did that one up and I’m currently on my second one now.
“It’s something I enjoy doing, it takes my mind off rugby. I like to keep busy and always be doing something.
“My dad helps me a lot but I love getting stuck in myself from the electrics, plumbing, knocking down walls… The whole lot.
“I reckon that’s what I’ll do after I finish playing, go into properties and that sort of thing.”
Bentley will aim to help the Rhinos win their first Grand Final since 2017 on Saturday.
The Leeds-born forward is hoping to represent his Irish heritage at his first World Cup this autumn after helping them qualify for the tournament.