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James Donaldson reveals the Super League club he turned down before joining Leeds Rhinos

James Donaldson has opened up on his ‘sour’ exit from Hull KR and the uncertainty that surrounded his career at the end of the 2018 season.

Speaking on teammate Brad Dwyer’s Dogcast series, the Cumbrian forward revealed that a broken promise by former Rovers head coach Tim Sheens left his career on the line.

“It ended a bit sour with Hull KR to be fair,” he said. “Sheensy (Tim Sheens) told me he would sort me a contract at the end of the season once we had got safe from relegation.

“He then turned around and said there was nothing there for me, which was a kick in the teeth because I was playing at Hull KR with my best mates.

“I was honestly absolutely loving my time there and for it to all come to an end I was a bit shocked at first.

“I remember being sat at home after I had got the phone call just crying, like ‘what do I do next?’

“At the time I didn’t have a manager so I rang Ian Sibbit and said look, get my name out there and see who’s available.

“I always just thought that an opportunity was going to come but time went on, one month went, two months. Lads are starting pre-season training and I’m ringing Sibb every day, ‘have we got anything?’

“I started getting Championship clubs calling saying ‘we’ll give you a decent wage, come play for us.’

“But I just said I don’t want to play Championship, I had no desire to play Championship and I said I’m not going to give in until I get what I want.”

Donaldson continued to have his own pre-season training, going to the gym every day and posting videos on social media to prove his fitness was still at a high level.

Despite no opportunities arising for weeks and going through endless sleepless nights wondering where his career was headed, the ex-Bradford man soon received not one, but two calls from Super League clubs.

“About two weeks before Christmas I got a call at 9 o’clock and I answered the phone and I got ‘hello it’s Kev Sinfield here, we want to offer you a trial but we can’t promise you anything, but we’ll have a look at you and see what we think.’

“Then an hour later Richard Thewlis rang me from Huddersfield and said we want to offer you a trial as well.

“I said ‘sorry I’ve got to turn it down because Kev’s rang me earlier and I’ve got to snap his hand off at that opportunity.’

“So I turned up at 6 o’clock the next day and got straight into training and lucky enough I was in decent nick because I had been training hard.

“After day one he (Sinfield) came up to me and said ‘we’re really impressed with you, we’re going to give you an opportunity to play on Boxing Day.'”

Despite dropping the ball on his first carry, Donaldson eased into the game and would eventually put in an impressive display, and that combined with his efforts in training earned him a one-year contract two weeks later.

The Whitehaven-born second-rower became a regular for the Rhinos in 2019 and signed a two-year estension at the end of that season to keep him at Headingley until the end of 2021 at least.

After coming through the adversity, 2020 saw Donaldson appear in Leeds’ Challenge Cup Final triumph over Salford at Wembley – rounding off a remarkable turnaround in his career.

You can watch the full Dogcast episode with Brad Dwyer and James Donaldson below.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. n beevers

    January 30, 2021 at 4:14 pm

    lukewarm at first but impressed with fire and grit last few games. think he will replace mellor after a couple of games

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