After coming through the Knights’ Excel program, AJ Towse made his club debut in the pre-season friendly against Featherstone Rovers in January and admitted that, while tough, it was a great experience. “The feeling of walking onto that pitch was unreal, nothing like it,” he explained and, furthering on his pre-season experiences, he noted “it was a big step with a lot of hard work but I enjoyed every bit.”
The arrival into the Knights’ first-team squad came after Towse initially spent many years with Heworth ARLFC’s junior ranks. “I started playing as a junior down at Elmpark Way,” he commented. “I joined a really good, established team so it was a steep learning curve at first but we had a pretty good record through the years.”
During those days, 17-year-old Towse watched a lot of Super League and NRL on TV as well as many visits to Headingley Stadium to see Leeds Rhinos in action but, despite growing up watching it, it wasn’t the first sport he played. “I played football initially but one of the Heworth coaches suggested I go down to try rugby,” he explained.
“I immediately loved the intensity on the pitch and the aggression. I’ve always been very competitive so it really suited me.
That initial appeal was then finely honed by several coaches. “Jase Kane was my junior coach for years, along with Jase B and my dad, and they all helped me learn the game,” he revealed. “Jase helped bring out the passion in his players and really pushed us to be our best.
“I had a brief spell with Daz Wheatley and the under-18s before joining the first team at Heworth under Scott Rhodes,” Towse added.
“Obviously then came last season with Fordy and the Knights. That was a brilliant experience and I learned a lot,” he noted.
While identifying fellow wingers Regan Grace and Josh Addo-Carr as his rugby league idols, Towse further credited his coaches and fellow players as being huge influences on his rugby so far. “You learn so much on and off the field with them and share the highs and lows of winning and losing,” he reasoned. “My dad and mum have always been there for us with our sport, too.
“My Grandad always had advice for me as well.”
Reflecting back on the start of his journey with the Knights and his first involvement as part of the Excel program, Towse, who initially attended as an under-14, explained that his coaches persuaded him and his teammates to attend. “Jase and my dad told us all to go down and we then did the Excel program and then Excel+,” he explained.
“At under-16s we got to play matches against Castleford, Hull and Featherstone,” Towse furthered. “Stepping away from the club and playing with different lads was a really good experience.”
Now, after agreeing to stay with the club for 2021, Towse has designs on a long future in the game. “I’d like to establish myself in the Knights side and play for my hometown,” he expressed. “Short-term, we’re obviously building a quality squad and learning from those players is a good step towards that.
“I want to take each opportunity I get and give it everything.”