THIRTEEN PLAYERS from the club’s scholarship have agreed contracts to join Leeds Rhinos’ academy ranks from next season.
The group includes players from community clubs Stanningley, East Leeds, Dewsbury Moor, Castleford Lock Lane and Halifax outfit Siddal.
Rhinos’ head of youth Simon Bell rates the new intake as one of the strongest in the club’s recent history.
Hoping to follow in the footsteps of Rhinos legend Jamie Peacock and current first-team squad members Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Ashton Golding and Jordan Lilley are Stanningley’s England stand-off Harvey Spence and prop Sam Moorhouse.
Spence attended Jones-Buchanan’s and Golding’s former school Priesthorpe, and Moorhouse is a Crawshaw School pupil.
East Leeds’ representative is Boston Spa School pupil Jordan Russell.
Four of Rhinos’ new academy players come from the highly successful Siddal Under-16 side which recently retained its national trophy with a 38-18 win against St Helens outfit Blackbrook.
The Siddal products are prop Tom Holroyd, who attends Calder High School, full-back Liam Whitton (Brooksbank), scrum-half Will Scrimshaw and prop Harry Georgiou (both Ryburn Valley High School).
Dewsbury Moor have provided the largest contingent with five players hoping to emulate the likes of Danny Ward, Matt Diskin and Luke Burgess who played for the West Yorkshire community club before going on to be Grand Final winners with Rhinos.
England Youth international centre Jack Broadbent and outside-back Ben Markland both go to Bruntcliffe School and Outwood Grange pupil Brad Martin is another England Youth star in the back-row. Winger Liam Hamill attends Immanuel College and utility-player Billy Jowitt goes to Kettlethorpe High.
Another England Youth player, Corey Johnson, joins from Castleford Lock Lane and attends Castleford Academy.
Bell is excited about the potential among Rhinos’ latest batch of academy prospects. He said: “This is one of the strongest groups of players we have had for many years.
“They have developed well over the last two years and will add to our existing group of Academy players. They are all a credit to their community clubs and the hours of hard work and dedication put in by their coaches in the junior ranks.
“Signing professionally with the Rhinos is the next step on their journey.”
Assessing the individuals’ skills, Bell added: “Liam Whitton is quick and elusive and has impressed with his support play. Likewise, Liam Hamill has shown his finishing skill after only joining us this year.
“Ben Markland is another who only joined us this year and is equally at home in any of the outside-back positions or full-back, and Jordan Russell is a strong ball carrier who has shown great improvement this season.
“Our England Youth internationals have shown their quality for club and country. Jack Broadbent is a smart rugby player with a great pair of hands, Harvey Spence is a good organiser with a good kicking game, Tom Holroyd is a big ball-carrying prop who has produced some breathtaking breaks in the the under-16s over the last two years.
“Brad Martin is a dynamic ball-carrier who can also play prop, and Corey Johnson is quick and elusive around the ruck and solid in defence.
“Will Scrimshaw is a good organiser who defends well above his size and is equally at home at hooker.
“Sam Moorhouse is a prop-forward with a great off-load game. Likewise fellow front-rower Harry Georgiou is a good ball carrier and defender with a great pair of hands. Billy Jowitt can play in the halves or at loose-forward and plays well above his weight.”
Meanwhile, Rhinos under-19s were beaten 68-30 at Warrington Wolves.
Jack Walker scored two tries, Harry Newman, Spencer Darley and James Barraclough got the others and Tom Schofield kicked five goals.