Leeds Rhinos will put their faith in youth next season.
Announcing Rhinos’ squad numbers for 2015, chief executive Gary Hetherington said he makes “no apologies” for promoting young players rather than bringing in signings from outside the club.
Australian forward Adam Cuthbertson is the only recruit on Rhinos’ 25-man playing roster – though one place has been left vacant and Hetherington said that could be filled by a signing if the right man becomes available – or an academy product.
Cuthbertson, Liam Sutcliffe, Brad Singleton and Jimmy Keinhorst have been drafted into Leeds’ top-20, replacing departed trio Ben Jones-Bishop, Ryan Bailey and Ian Kirke, plus Chris Clarkson, who has joined Widnes Vikings on a season-long loan.
Teenagers Josh Walters, Elliot Minchella and Robbie Ward are also included in the senior squad, along with Andy Yates, who joined Rhinos from Hunslet a year ago, but has yet to make his debut due to injury.
“I think going into next season this is an even better squad than we had last year,” said Hetherington.
“Where we are blessed is with an outstanding production line of young players.
“Other clubs have as well, but we have a great record of giving opportunities to young players and reaping the rewards.
“If Josh Walters hadn’t been given an opportunity last year we would not know he is every bit a Super League-standard player.
“The same can be said for quite a few other players as well and we make no apologies for that being our policy.
“That policy has stood us in extremely good stead over the last 18 years and our production line and our quality of young players is better than it has been at any time.
“We have never had as good a set up a we have now, with the quality of our staff, our facilities, our infrastructure, our recruitment network, the strength of the junior game in the city of Leeds.
“For us to have any other policy than to give the opportunity to and nurture young kids would, I believe, be misguided and would not do justice to the work that’s going on at every community club in Leeds by hundreds of people giving their time and effort.
“The real reward is to see primarily home-grown Leeds lads progress through the system and become Leeds Rhinos and ultimately England international players.”
Thomas Minns, James Duckworth, Luke Briscoe, Alex Foster, Jordan Baldwinson, Mason Tonks and Robbie Mulhern, who are now too old for the under-19s, are training with Rhinos, but will join other clubs on loan next year. All but Mulhern are back at Leeds after spells elsewhere last season.