When rookie Australian forward Mitch Achurch arrived on these shores to play for Leeds Rhinos, the news was met with excitement at what the promising Aussie could produce.
Just 12 months earlier when he was on the verge of quitting the game after he felt his career had become ‘stagnant,’ but the former Penrith Panthers man was handed a lifeline in August 2012 as Leeds offered him a four-year deal.
His first campaign in Super League was tinged with disappointment form-wise, while the 25-year-old was hampered by injury meaning the second rower enjoyed just four starts while also playing a number of games on dual registration with Hunslet Hawks.
Despite a promising conclusion to his 2013 campaign, the opening weeks of current season saw Achurch in and out of the squad due to the fine form of his fellow Rhinos forwards. This season seemed destined for it a repeat of last year after the Achurch was an unused substitute in Leeds’ 12-12 away draw with Huddersfield.
But, Achurch remained determined to make his mark.
A long term injury suffered by Jamie Jones-Buchannan against St. Helens in March saw an opportunity open up for Achurch ahead of the notoriously tough Easter period – but he took his chance with both hands and has not looked back since.
His first start of an extended run in the first team came in a convincing derby win over Wakefield Wildcats and the Penrith-born forward impressed enough to keep his spot and he performed well once again as Leeds demolished Bradford 46-6 the following week.
The trust Achurch had earned from the coaching staff in a short space of time was perhaps epitomised by him earning a stating berth in arguably Leeds’ biggest game of the season – a Challenge Cup tie against St. Helens.
Once again, he was impressive as Leeds put in one of their best performances of the season to win 32-12 over their Lancashire rivals.
Achurch has continued to go from strength to strength over the last eight weeks, and his form saw him pick up a Man of the Match award in the Rhinos’ most recent outing against Hull FC.
And there could sill be more to come from the 25-year-old, who’s Man of the Match award marks a remarkable turnaround with Achurch going from the brink of quitting the game to becoming a mainstay of the starting 13 which sits at the top of the table at the half way stage of the season in just over two years.