Leeds Rhinos: Who do you recognise from the 2004 academy intake?

One of Leeds Rhinos’ 2004 academy signings went on to play for England, but can you spot him and how many of the other youngsters on this picture do you recognise?

By Peter Smith
Monday, 10th January 2022, 4:53 pm

At front and centre of our pick of Rhinos’ latest crop of hopefuls was teenager Luke Gale, who would be made captain of the club 16 years later.

Gale didn’t make a first team appearance during his initial spell with his hometown club, but went on to star for Doncaster, Harlequins, Bradford Bulls, Castleford Tigers and England before rejoining Rhinos after the 2019 season.

He captained Leeds to Challenge Cup glory at Wembley in 2020 - when his drop goal secured a one-point win over Salford Red Devils - and signed for Hull late last year.

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The players who joined Rhinos' academy in 2004. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Two more of the 2004 academy recruits went on to play in Super League for Rhinos.

Forward Michael Haley made one substitute appearance in 2008 and later played for Doncaster, Sheffield Eagles and Featherstone Rovers before six seasons with Hunslet. He retired in 2019.

Michael Ratu made six first team appearances for Rhinos from 2007-2009.

He also featured in Super League for Hull KR and later had spells with Halifax, Rochdale Hornets and Swinton Lions.

Luke Gale picture at Rhinos' 2008 npre-season media day. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Joe Walsh, son of then Rhinos conditioner Steve Walsh, moved from Leeds’ academy to Bradford Bulls and made his Super League debut for Harlequins in 2007.

He played five times in the top division for the London outfit and twice with Huddersfield Giants in 2009.

Kyle Briggs was Gale’s half-back partner in Rhinos’ academy and at Doncaster.

In 2011 he played in Super League for both Bradford Bulls and Harlequins and also had stints with Featherstone Rovers, Dewsbury Rams and Sheffield Eagles.

Tom Burton moved from Rhinos to York, Matthew Whitaker joined Huddersfield Giants and Dean Townend returned to the community game with Queens and Bramley.

Rhinos' 2004 academy signings, pictured by YEP photographer Tony Johnson, were: Luke Gale (centre) with, from left to right, Joseph Walsh, Kyle Briggs, Dean Townend, Michael Ratu, Michael Haley, Matthew Whitaker and Tom Burton.

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