IT’S been a whirlwind year for Oli Field, but he believes he has firmly found his home with the York Knights.

The 21-year-old forward first arrived at the LNER Community Stadium on a one-month loan from Betfred Super League heavyweights Leeds Rhinos in March, and has not looked back.

A string of impressive performances through a difficult period for the Knights saw him quickly make that move permanent, penning a two-year deal in May.

He was a mainstay thereafter, contributing seven tries in 26 appearances - including doubles against both Newcastle Thunder and Widnes Vikings - as Andrew Henderson’s side defied the odds to make the Betfred Championship Play-offs on the final day of the season.

Growing frustrated with the lack of consistency with the Rhinos’ Reserves, the former Wetherby Bulldogs skipper admits he was keen for a move away from Headingley.

“I’d been trying to push through a loan for quite a while,” he revealed to The Press. “I was a little bit fed up of playing in the Reserve League and I got a bit frustrated with it.

“I wanted to test myself in a more competitive division in the Championship and luckily I got that little break with York.

“I’m so grateful to Clint [Goodchild, chairman] and Hendo [Henderson] for giving me a real chance last year.

“It all happened really quickly. The original plan was just a month’s loan, and all of a sudden I blinked and I’d played every single game for the rest of the year!”

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But the second-rower would not have had things any other way, for time in the Championship seems to only have progressed his game.

Field’s improvement across the year was evident, with Henderson likening his growing maturity to a “boy becoming a man”.

He linked up superbly with top try-scorer AJ Towse and captain Chris Clarkson on the Knights’ left edge, and even performed admirably at half-back in what was just his third appearance for the club against Halifax Panthers in April.

With injuries in double figures at their highest point last term, the coaching team put their faith in the club’s youngsters, handing them perhaps more minutes than they would otherwise have been afforded, but they came through in spades to craft an incredible run of 10 wins from their final 11 Championship matches.

Asked whether he had anticipated the game time that he received, Field laughed, “No, not a chance!

“It’s hard, because I didn’t know how I’d go in the Championship, because it was a step up from what I’d been playing. 

“As soon as I joined, the boys got round me and made sure that I was really welcomed in. I felt like I was part of the team straight away, which doesn’t always happen.

“I feel like York is my home now, and I’m really loving it.

“I felt like I did what I did well enough to give me a spot, and hopefully everyone could see my improvement as I went on throughout the year.

“It’s a credit to Hendo for putting his trust in me, how much I improved.

“York are a good club, you see the likes of AJ Towse and Myles Harrison, where York have given them a chance and Hendo is willing to put his trust in the young lads.

“I don’t think without that kind of trust and without that kind of game time, I’d have developed into the kind of player that I am today.”

York had to wait until 15 minutes after the conclusion of their final regular season match at Barrow Raiders to learn their Play-off fate, but it was an afternoon in which everything fell in their favour.

York Press: Field scored in the Knights' final regular season match, a 31-18 victory at Barrow Raiders in September.Field scored in the Knights' final regular season match, a 31-18 victory at Barrow Raiders in September. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

Field found the whitewash in a match that ebbed and flowed in Cumbria, the Knights’ 31-18 triumph coupled with Halifax’s defeat to relegation-threatened Swinton Lions compiling a fairytale ending to Henderson’s first campaign in charge.

Owing to a kick-off delay, all eyes were on The Shay, but it was the Knights who were left preparing for a trip to Bradford Bulls the following weekend.

“It was pretty mad,” Field recalled. “We didn’t know whether we’d be off or we’d be playing the next week.

“We were all sat in the changing room and we had the commentary of the Halifax game on the speaker for about 10 minutes. They’d had a delay of some sort.

“We were sat holding on and waiting with bated breath a little bit. That was an experience in itself, but we got to go again.

“Obviously, the result the week after wasn’t ideal, but the way that we finished the season, and the run that we managed to piece together, has got to give us confidence for next year.”