Leeds Rhinos' young guns will fire says Callum McLelland
Half-back prospect Callum McLelland insists Leeds Rhinos won’t regret putting their faith in youth.
Of the players signed on for 2020, only two - Adam Cuthbertson and Luke Gale - will be over 30 when the season begins on February 2.
Including Brad Singleton, whose move to Toronto Wolfpack is set to be announced next week, 12 of the players awarded a squad number before the 2019 season have left the club, with just five new faces brought in so far.
Everything points to Leeds fielding a youthful side in the coming campaign and McLelland, now 20 but one of seven teenagers to feature last term, is confident the youngsters won’t let anybody down.
“We have let quite a few lads go, but now it’s time for us young lads to start stepping up in training,” McLelland said.
“You can see that with the amount of young lads training now, it is probably 50-50 with the older guys.
“That is massive for us and it’s good for us to test ourselves against the best.”
McLelland made only one Super League and two Challenge Cup appearances for Rhinos last season, but had a big impact on Featherstone Rovers, helping them reach the Betfred Championship Grand Final.
After that he was a key part of Scotland’s side in their successful bid to qualify for the 2021 World Cup before returning to training with Leeds for the second week of pre-season.
Robert Lui and Gale are likely to be Rhinos’ first-choice halves next year, but Richie Myler is still at the club and with McLelland as well, four players are fighting for two places in the team.
McLelland said: “I had a couple of weeks’ break before the Scotland camp and I had last week off as well.
“I’m back this week and, especially with Galey here now as well, it is competitive - I want to be learning every session and testing myself against the best every session.
“For me it’s about starting again and trying to kick on now and bag a spot in the 17.
“That was my goal to get some games last year, unfortunately I didn’t get as many as I’d have liked, but I absolutely loved my time at Fev and I thought it brought me on leaps and bounds. Hopefully I can show that next year.”
McLelland came through Castleford Tigers’ academy before switching codes with Scotland rugby union. Last year was his first season back in league and he reckons he is in a far better place now than 12 months ago.
“Coming back from rugby union, it was a massive step,” he said. “It’s just getting used to the pace of the game and how the game is played.
“Kicking is completely different and the speed of the game took some getting used to, longer than I thought.
“It wasn’t until probably just before the play-offs with Featherstone when I thought I was back fully to where I needed to be.”
The spell at Rovers gave McLelland an opportunity to gain regular game time at a high standard.
He said: “The team there made it easy for me, the way the boys played, particularly at the end of the year.
“The forwards put a right shift in and it’s a good group of lads to be around. I really did enjoy it, especially with how far we got.
“We lost in the final, but it’s a massive building block for them next year, especially with the signings they’ve made.
“It will stand them in really good stead.”