Freed Leeds Rhinos players ‘can make the grade’

Aaron Brown.
Aaron Brown.
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Youth boss Barrie McDermott is confident all the players released from Leeds Rhinos’ academy set-up this year will remain in the game, if they want to.

Rhinos were forced to release a host of players following Super League clubs’ decision to scrap under-18 and under-20 sides next year and operate with a single, under-19 team below the senior ranks.

All players who were over-age for the under-19s and not part of the first- team squad have been released.

McDermott revealed that he has spent the past two months helping ex-Leeds academy players to find new clubs.

Three are now in Australia, others have linked up with sides in the Co-op Championships and McDermott expects at least some of them will return to Super League at some stage in the future.

Reflecting on the players allowed to leave, McDermott said: “Ollie Olds picked up a cruciate knee injury last season and he has gone back to Wales.

“We agreed to release him before his injury, but we’ve honoured our commitment to his re-hab. he is working his way back and I’ll be working with him to find a team when he’s fit.

“Sean Casey, the half-back, has gone to Barrow and Colton Roche, who has given outstanding service to the club through the age levels, has signed for Sheffield Eagles.

“Their coach, Mark Aston, has been very impressed with Colton’s attitude and I definitely think he has the potential to play at a higher level.

“Mo Agoro had a great game in the under-20 Grand Final and was probably our man of the match. The Oldham coach, Scott Naylor, told me he was looking for outside-backs, I recommended Mo and he’s got a contract there.

“Jack Pring, the centre, has been really good for us and he’s a great lad. He has gone back to South Wales and I think he’ll be playing with the Scorpions next year.

“He was involved with Wales for the Autumn Internationals, though he didn’t play.

“Aaron Brown was our 20s player and players’ player of the year. He got a lot of attention and has taken the chance to play at Dewsbury, under Glenn Morrison.

“three of the lads are now in Australia. Dan Smith, who was in the first- team squad last year, will be playing with Wynum Manly in the Queensland Cup. I spoke to (former Rhinos player) Chris McKenna, who is their rugby director and we got him set up.

“He’s a prop and sometimes it takes them a long time to reach their peak. One of the glitches of the system is that some players are late developers and it leaves them with nowhere to go, but Dan has got a fabulous opportunity.

“Danny Bravo and Matty Syron have also gone to Australia, to play for the Thirroul Butchers Club in New South Wales.”

McDermott said Brad Cox, Luke Teasdale, Gareth Morgan and Jose Kenga have returned to the amateur game and trialist Douglas Foster was offered a contract, but has opted to remain in student rugby league.

Ryan Smith has also left the club and Louis Nichol is set to join Wakefield Trinity Wildcats after being recommended by McDermott to his counterpart Ryan Hudson.

Jared Stewart, who had been part of the senior squad, was released mid-way through the campaign and has joined Newcastle Rugby Union Club.

Other players to leave before the season ended included Jake Normington, who has returned to his amateur club East Leeds, Jay Leary, who joined Castleford Tigers and Ben Finder and Gerry Lee-Pierre, who decided to concentrate on full-time education.

McDermott added: “Some under-age players have been affected as having one team rather than two means numbers have reduced, but there is a better concentration of quality and next year the under-19s will be our best team for some time.”

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