Leeds Rhinos new boy Andy Ackers says he can’t wait to pull on the club’s shirt for the first time now that pre-season is in full swing.
Alongside team-mate Brodie Croft, experienced hooker Ackers saw his move to Headingley from Salford Red Devils confirmed back in October.
The 29-year-old has been handed shirt number nine by Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith, and will get his chance to don it for the first time on Boxing Day in an annual pre-season friendly against Wakefield Trinity – the ‘Wetherby Whaler’.
First up when the competitive action comes around are former club Salford, who visit Headingley in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Friday, February 16.
Leeds Rhinos new recruit Andy Ackers details excitement over representing ‘great club’ for first time against former employers
Ackers spent the best part of four seasons with the Red Devils, making 74 appearances and scoring 10 tries. His showings for the Greater Manchester outfit earned international recognition, capped twice by England last year, including an appearance at the World Cup against Greece.
There’s no doubting what Salford mean to the forward as a club, but Ackers makes clear that his sole focus is on achieving things with Leeds.
Speaking to the Rhinos’ YouTube channel, he said: “It’ll be good to see some old faces. I’m sure they’ll be gunning for me, but I’ve got a lot of great memories from Salford.
“I was really proud to represent the place, it’s ran by Paul Rowley who is a great person, a great coach and a great friend.
“I’ve got a lot of great friends there, but I’m committed to the Rhinos now. It’s going to be a really proud moment pulling on this jersey and representing this great club.”
Ackers hoping for Boxing Day win over Wakefield Trinity to mark milestone birthday
The hooker is one of seven new recruits brought in by Leeds this off-season, with the Rhinos squad last week heading out to Portugal for a training camp.
On the trip, he continued: “It was great for the lads, something like that always picks the morale up. There was loads of bonding with the lads, great sessions… long sessions, but we got a lot out of it.
“We learnt a lot about each other, and a bit of sun before Christmas just picks the morale up, it was a great week. The lads are raring to go now on Boxing Day.”
Wigan-born Ackers is vastly experienced, just four competitive appearances off the milestone of 250 career games having previously represented Swinton Lions, London Broncos and Toronto Wolfpack as well as Salford.
He admits though that playing on Boxing Day is a new one for him, and will be even more special given that as a Christmas Day baby, he’ll turn 30 on the 25th.
“It’s come towards the back end of my career, but it’s something I’m looking forward to,” said Ackers.
“I’m 30 on Christmas Day, so it would be a good birthday present to get the win, but it’s a new experience for me and I’m looking forward to it.
“We’ve been hearing a lot of positives about Wakefield, about their new ownership and the way they’ve recruited. It should be a good game, a good encounter, and it’ll help us to get our feet on the ground running ready for the 2024 season.”