TEENAGE FORWARD Elliot Minchella admits “eyebrows will be raised” at the number of young players in Leeds Rhinos’ 2015 squad.
But he insists they are fired-up to push for a spot as Rhinos’ old guard near the end of their careers.
Minchella, 18, has been promoted into Rhinos’ 25-man senior group, with fellow academy products Liam Sutcliffe, Brad Singleton, Jimmy Keinhorst, Josh Walters and Robbie Ward also moving up the squad number pecking order.
Only one signing – Australian forward Adam Cuthbertson – has been brought in from another club and Minchella admitted he was “very pleased and a bit shocked”, by his promotion.
“It shows there’s going to be a bit of a change in the coming two or three years,” he said.
“It is good for us young lads that Gary (chief executive Gary Hetherington) and Brian (coach Brian McDermott) are standing with us, rather than signing a lot of players.
“You’ve got to sign some, but it is good the majority, the core of the team, are going to be people who have come through the youth system.
“Hopefully I will be one of them. It is exciting. There will be a few eyebrows raised with so many young players getting
squad numbers, but it’s up to us to show why we’ve got them.”
Leeds’ squad for next year includes eight players – six of them forwards – who will be aged 30 or older by the time the season ends and Minchella added: “There’s an opportunity there. It is going to be tough to break in, but I think the forwards have got more of a chance than anyone else – and maybe the half-backs.
“There’s a few of the boys coming to the end of their career and that’s a good opportunity for the likes of me, Josh Walters, Mason Tonks – who’s back at the club now – and Alex Foster. We are all going for the same shirt. It’s good there’s an opportunity there and it’s something to work for. It is a good time to be a young player at Leeds.”
Minchella is into his second pre-season as a full-time player and is hoping to add to his current total of six first team appearances next year.
“It has been tough,” he said of the first few weeks of preparations. “That’s what you expect. I am feeling good.
“I hope to progress from last year, that will be my aim again for next season. I’ve not really set a target for games. I just want to be in the team as much as I can and bring to the table what I can offer whenever I get called up. It is up to me. It is my last year in the under-19s, so whether I will be playing 19s, first team or at Hunslet (on dual-registration) I don’t know yet. I will have to wait and see.”
The Bradford-born back-rower – who can also play at stand-off – played five senior games last season, but admitted his form “wasn’t brilliant”.
He said: “I thought I could have been a lot better. The standards I have set myself are a lot higher than I showed last year. I have got a lot to prove to myself.”
His first chance to do that could come on Boxing Day, in the annual festive fixture against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
“I’m hoping to get a game,” he confirmed. “It is up to Mac, but I would like to play again.
“It is tough when you are working hard and there’s no game. A lot of us are looking at Boxing Day and trying to get our name on the team sheet.
“It is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.”
Meanwhile, players Jamie Peacock, Carl Ablett and Jordan Baldwinson, plus mascot Ronnie the Rhino, will be showing off the Challenge Cup at Leeds Building Society’s head office branch, at 105 Albion Street, from 11am-12.30pm tomorrow.
Fans will have an opportunity to be photographed with the trophy, in return for a small donation to Lineham Farm Children’s Centre.