Leeds Rhinos starlets off to London Broncos

Gary Hetherington.
Gary Hetherington.
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Chief executive Gary Hetherington insists Leeds Rhinos remain committed to their partnership with neighbours Hunslet Hawks, despite the departure of three more players to Super League rivals.

Centre Thomas Minns, 19, winger James Duckworth, 19 and back-rower Alex Foster, 20, have joined London Broncos on season-long loans.

All three could feature for London against Rhinos in Ryan Bailey’s testimonial game at Headingley Carnegie on January 31.

The latest deals come less than a week after centre Jimmy Keinhorst and utility-back Luke Briscoe moved to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on a similar arrangement.

Keinhorst and Foster were both dual-registered with Hunslet last year, along with eight club-mates – making a total of 64 appearances between them.

Foster and Keinhorst could have returned to Hawks this season, but Hetherington said the decision to send them elsewhere does not affect the Leeds clubs’ partnership.

He insisted: “Our dual-registration agreement with Hunslet remains.

“Only our first team players are available to go there on dual-registration.

“Clearly when a player has the ability to play Super League, going on loan to a Super League club will be a benefit to the player and to ourselves.”

Foster and Keinhorst both have Rhinos squad numbers, but the other loan players are outside the 25-strong elite group.

“Clearly Hunslet have dropped down a division this year,” Hetherington said. “If our players aren’t playing in the Rhinos’ first team we want them to play in the best-possible standard and Championship One is not the best-possible standard.

“The Championship, where Hunslet were last year, is a very good standard.

“But nevertheless that’s where they are, we accept that and there’s no doubt some of our players will be playing for Hunslet this year – or will be made available for Barry [Eaton, Hawks’ coach].

Briscoe missed much of last season through injury, but the other four all played in Rhinos’ senior side.

Hetherington denied the long-term loans will leave Rhinos short of cover.

“We retain the option to bring them back,” he confirmed.

“But only to play for the Rhinos first team.

“That option remains, but the spirit of it is that they go as London or Wakefield players for the year and we’d only bring them back if we had a serious spate of injuries.

“We still have 23 players in the first team squad - and some outstanding academy players.

“Last year six came out of the academy and played first team, so academy players can be promoted if needed.”

Team boss Brian McDermott - who coached the capital side from 2006-2010 - feels a year with London will be good for the Rhinos trio.

He said: “This is a great opportunity for all three players.

“Last season they showed their potential, with Alex Foster in particular becoming a regular in our side on merit.

“They have trained well in pre-season with us and the move to London is a chance for them to be regularly involved in a first team environment.

“We hope all three players will have a bright future with the Rhinos and this move is chance for them to have a different life experience, away from home.

“A number of our current first team squad spent time away from the club on loan in their early years, including Ben Jones-Bishop who had a year down in London and I am sure Alex, Thomas and James will make the most of this chance.”

Broncos coach Tony Rea said: “We have identified these players and been looking at them. We watched their debuts and their performances last year.”

Meanwhile, the RFL hope to announce a new Super League sponsorship deal this week.

Hunslet Hawks’ Championship fixture away to Gateshead Thunder has been brought forward two days to Friday, July 4 (8pm).

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