LEEDS RHINOS say their partnership with Featherstone will continue as normal, despite the loan of four players to Rovers’ Kingstone Press Championship rivals Bradford Bulls.
Half-back Jordan Lilley, who made 24 senior appearances for Rhinos last year and was voted the Yorkshire Evening Post Shooting Star, is the most high profile of the quartet.
The others are hooker Sam Hallas, also 20 and with three first team games under his belt, and 18-year-old forwards Josh Jordan-Roberts, who has played once for the senior side, and Mikolaj Oledzki, who is yet to make his debut.
The Leeds players are available for Bulls’ opening Kingstone Press Championship fixture at Hull KR on Sunday.
A new Bulls club was formed last month after the previous outfit ceased trading. Bradford will begin the new year on minus-12 points and this week announced a squad of only 20 players.
Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “We have a dual-registration agreement with Featherstone Rovers which works extremely well.
“That is unaltered, however we are looking to support Bradford Bulls where we can, both through their rugby department and off the field as well.
“To that end, four players will be going on a month’s loan, initially, to bolster the Bradford Bulls first-team squad.
“That is effective immediately.”
Rhinos coach Brian McDermott, a former Bulls player, said Leeds have made a “pledge” to help the Odsal club.
He said: “We’re going to provide some players for them and I know our club is going to do some stuff behind the scenes with them.
“We would like to help them; it is in everybody’s interest to make them as good as they can be and get them back to where they used to be, as it is with every club. We’ve got a great history at the club in loaning out players and helping out other clubs as best we can.
“It is important for us that the other clubs around us are as strong as they can be to generate a strong league and competitive games. That is the ultimate goal.”
Of the Leeds’ players, McDermott added: “They will do a month and see where they are at.
“Josh and Mikolaj are younger than Sam and Jordan, who have played enough first-team games for them to be comfortably in contention for selection.
“Whether [Bradford coach] Geoff Toovey wants the junior lads, he can make that decision over the next month. After that we can call them back at 48 hours’ notice.”
Bulls’ challenge is to remain in the Championship despite the points penalty, and McDermott admitted: “It is a big task they’ve got to try and knock together a squad to try and win six games to get on an even-keel to start with.”
Bradford’s co-owner Andrew Chalmers said: “We are really pleased to announce a close collaboration with Leeds Rhinos that has enabled us to bring in some players with Super League experience.
“I’d like to thank Gary Hetherington for the help he has given us and we will look to continue to develop this relationship for the benefit of all the stakeholders.”