PATIENCE is finally about to pay off for England Academy hooker Keal Carlile.
The 19-year-old will tomorrow make his senior Huddersfield Giants debut in the Challenge Cup clash against Rochdale Hornets at the Galpharm Stadium (11.30am) following his winter move from Super League neighbours Bradford Bulls.
Carlile always knew it would take some time for him to make a first-team bow in the claret and gold.
At the start of pre-season he underwent shoulder surgery, which meant the Pontefract-born No9 missed the start of the Reserve Team Championship campaign.
But as soon as he returned to full fitness he faced the even more challenging task of battling it out with the likes of Scott Moore, Shaun Lunt and David Faiumu for a senior hooking spot.
And tomorrow that will finally happen.
It may not be on the Super League stage – although he did make one Super League appearance for the Bulls at St Helens last season – but Carlile admits this weekend’s clash against Championship I strugglers Rochdale will still be a massive occasion.
“I really can’t wait. My senior debut has been a long time coming and I’m determined to make the most of it,” he said.
“I’m over my shoulder operation now and I’ve had a couple of Reserve games, so I really feel I’m ready to step up.
“But, to be honest, I’m delighted it’s come this soon.
“After I signed for Huddersfield, a few people wondered if I’d made the right choice coming here, particularly as there were already some quality hookers at the club.
“But I felt this massive competition for places would help bring the very best out of me and that if I was patient and willing to wait, my chance would eventually come.
“I’ve no doubt that in a couple of years this club is going to become absolutely massive and I want to be around when that happens.
“And, hopefully, at that stage I’ll be figuring more in Super League. I know you can never take that for granted, but I’m sure that with someone like Nathan Brown around I’ll have the best chance to continue to develop.
“He was obviously a great hooker himself, and he’s now a fantastic coach. Every day after training he’ll pull me to one side and teach me one-on-one about the specific skills of being a hooker and dummy-half play.
“To be honest, I can’t believe how much he’s taught me – I feel really lucky – and I know that if I take everything on board I’ll give myself the best possible chance to reach my potential.”
The next stage in his development is tomorrow’s Challenge Cup clash against the Hornets.
It would seem the ideal fixture to ease Carlile into first-team life, with his side’s opponents languishing at the foot of the lowest tier in the professional game with one win from their opening six League outings.
But Carlile will be taking absolutely nothing for granted.
“We know we’re massive favourites for this one,” he added.
“But we can’t afford to take Rochdale for granted at all. Over the years, shocks have happened in the Challenge Cup, and they’re more likely to happen if you underestimate the opposition, and we’re determined to make sure we’re not guilty of doing that.
“On top of that, I know all the younger lads who have their chance this weekend (including the likes of fellow debut man Josh Griffin and Larne Patrick) know we have to play well and get the win so we don’t let the senior guys down.
“In that sense, that puts extra pressure on us.
“But I’m not going to let that worry me too much. I’m just going to look forward to the whole occasion.
“When I was told earlier in the week I was in the squad I was absolutely chuffed, I really couldn’t have been happier.
“I just can’t wait!”