Leeds Rhinos tie young forward down with contract extension: ‘He is a valuable member of our squad’

Ben Olawumi
James McDonnell

James McDonnell scores a try for Leeds Rhinos in 2023 - Alamy

Leeds Rhinos forward James McDonnell has marked his 24th birthday with a contract extension, penning a new deal until the end of the 2025 season.

McDonnell joined Leeds ahead of the season just gone from hometown club Wigan Warriors, where he’d come through the academy ranks to make six senior appearances, scoring two tries in the process.

He also featured as a loanee for both York and Leigh in-between those handful of Warriors appearances, scoring six tries in 17 appearances for the latter as they sealed promotion back to the top flight in 2022 under Adrian Lam.

Initially penning a two-year deal until the end of the upcoming season, the youngster would go on to feature 24 times in his first year at Headingley as the Rhinos finished 8th, missing out on the play-offs by four points.

And ahead of his second season in Leeds’ colours, he’s now tagged 12 months onto his stay.

Leeds Rhinos tie young forward James McDonnell down with contract extension until the end of the 2025 season

Speaking to the Rhinos’ club website about his new deal, McDonnell said: “I am pleased to have got my contract sorted before the start of the season, and it means I can focus on the next two years.

“When I came to Leeds, I backed myself to get more game time, and I am really pleased with how last season went. I think that experience will be good for me as I look to build on what I achieved in 2023.

“The one-year extension works well for me and the club, it gives me security and it is a reward for how well last season went.

“I back myself to improve each year, I think the length of the contract reflects that, and if I can do that again this year then hopefully I can put pen to paper for even longer at Leeds.”

Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith sings praises of James McDonnell: ‘He is a valuable member of our squad’

In McDonnell, Leeds have tied down an international player, making his senior bow for Ireland at Headingley in October 2022 during the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup against Jamaica.

Representing the Wolfhounds through his heritage, the forward was also the unused 18th man as Ireland were beaten by New Zealand later that month.

Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith added: “James is an impressive individual who has really made Leeds his home since signing for the club.

“For a Wigan lad to decide to leave his hometown club and commit to being at the Rhinos speaks volumes about his determination to succeed and push himself.

“He is a valuable member of our squad who makes those important, but often unseen by outsiders, sacrifices for his team mates.

“I am delighted he has agreed to an extension, and I look forward to working with him to continue to improve over the next two years and hopefully beyond that point.”

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