ENGLAND ACADEMY forward Elliot Minchella has signed a new three-year Leeds Rhinos contract.
The 17-year-old – who made a try-scoring debut in Rhinos 42-16 win at Salford City Reds last August – has been training with the first team, despite not receiving a squad number for 2014.
Minchella is one of four Rhinos teenagers named in the England academy squad for next year and will captain Leeds Under-19s when they travel to France for a two-game tour in January.
Bradford-born Minchella is regarded as one of Rhinos’ brightest prospects and said he is “over the moon” with his new deal.
“I had a good year and it is nice to get rewarded for that,” he said. “Hopefully, I can crack on this season and get one or two games, but my focus is more on the 19s.
“I want to have a strong year for them and see what we can do.
“We have got a different team, we’ve lost a few players and a lot of young lads have come in, so we will see how we go. If I get any first-team games it will be a bonus. This year was totally out of the blue, it wasn’t what I was aiming for.
“This season my aim is to get a few games, but it’s still a bonus. I am still only young and I’ve got my feet on the ground.
“I’m realistic about my chances. I am at, in my opinion, the best team in the world and chances will be limited, but hopefully if my chance comes I am going to take it with both hands. I will be patient.”
The three-year term is an indication of how highly Minchella is rated at Leeds.
“I’m very happy with that,” he added. “I had no hesitation in signing and I never thought about looking elsewhere. I will take it and see what happens from here. It is down to me.”
Rhinos Under-19s will take on Catalan Dragons and Wigan Warriors during next month’s French adventure.
“The younger lads will be playing against Wigan,” Minchella said. “They are taking a young side over, but the older lads will be playing against Catalan.
“It should be a good test. They will be a strong side, but it will be good to get the lads together and do a bit of team bonding.”
Minchella is one of five Rhinos players included in next year’s England Academy squad, alongside Ash Handley, George Milton, Matt Stableford and Robbie Ward.
“I played last year and I am looking forward to getting out there again,” Minchella said of his England call-up. “We’re playing against the Aussies (in 2014) so I am looking forward to that.
“It gives us a bit of a boost, especially in pre-season. It is nice to get noticed and it gives you an extra spring in your step.
“I am happy for the other lads, especially Robbie Ward. I think he deserves it and hopefully he will have a big year. It shows [under-19s coach] Chris Plume and [youth boss] Barrie McDermott are doing something right to get so many lads in the England squad. It is the best club to be at.”
Leeds boss Brian McDermott added: “He has got a good chance. Like Alex Foster he is pretty much an all-rounder. He’s a good defender – very good hitter defensively – and also good with the ball, a strong carrier and he can play in the middle or on the edge.
“At such a young age he has played first team already and he’s one for the future, definitely.”