Written by Callum Walker
Photo by Steve Riding
It often makes for a good debate about whether or not there are enough youngsters getting game time at Super League clubs, but the current crop of up-and-coming stars are right to be raved about.
Let’s start with Huddersfield; one of the much-maligned teams of 2019, the Giants were saved from relegation by London and a two-point gap. But, many of those inexperienced players that were given a chance by head coach Simon Woolford are now reaping the rewards in 2021.
Innes and Louis Senior, Matty English, Darnell McIntosh, Oliver Russell and Sam Hewitt have now become regular starters or substitutes for Huddersfield (Wakefield in the case of twin Innes). And, they are showing just what they can do with the Giants now sitting in the top half of the table with more wins than losses and two one-point defeats.
Look at St Helens and Wigan too; these two clubs pride themselves on bringing through youngsters into the first-team and it has always paid off. Saints had 12 players that had come through their youth system in their 21-man squad against Castleford last week. Likewise, Wigan boss Adrian Lam has named 10 for this week’s clash against the Tigers.
But, it’s not just about naming them, it’s about them having the impact if they do play. The likes of Liam Marshall for the Warriors and Aaron Smith for Saints are major players in their respective setups; they are not just sat on the bench keeping a seat warm.
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) August 28, 2020
If you look along the whole of Super League, there is a long line of exciting youngsters pushing their way through. Arthur Mourgue at Catalans is one; a current understudy to Sam Tomkins, the Frenchman is a great prospect at the back.
Leeds have Sam Holroyd as well as Alex Sutcliffe poking their noses through into the first-team with Harry Newman well settled at centre, whilst Castleford is able to call on 21-year-old Jake Trueman in the halves and a tough Jacques O’Neill.
It’s no coincidence that those sides near the top end of the table have a set of impressive youngsters that are more than ready to become consistent professionals.
That old adage if you are good enough then you are old enough is true. Jack Walker, for example, made his debut at just 17 years of age and has become an ever-present in the Leeds side. The reserve grade is a great way of ensuring the cream rises to the top, just like the NRL with its feeder teams. And, long may it continue.