Magnificent seven new recruits join Leeds Rhinos academy

Leeds Rhinos have signed seven new players for the club’s academy in 2022.

Monday, 25th October 2021, 6:00 am

Four of the teenagers have been promoted from the Under-17s with three more from the club’s Under-16s.

Winger Will Gatus, Oxford-born forward Jack Johnson and half-back Kai Morgan all come from the Siddal amateur club in Halifax.

Kippax, meanwhile, have helped produce two of the players – full-back Alfie Edgell and centre Max Simpson.

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Full-back Riley Lumb has featured for Townville Tigers and Castleford Lock Lane but was first inspired to start playing rugby league thanks to his dad, the ex-Great Britain BARLA international Gary.

Finally, Pontefract-born centre Jack Smith started playing rugby with Featherstone Lions, where he scored twice against Lock Lane to help the Lions win the BARLA Cup.

He joined the Rhinos Scholarship two years ago and made two appearances for the Under-16s this season.

All of the new additions are set to feature for Rhinos Under-18s next term as the Super League club seeks to bring through its next crop of youngsters to the senior game.

Leeds Rhinos head coach Richard Agar, left, along with head of academy recruitment and operations Simon Bell, far right, with the new Rhinos Academy recruits. From the back left are: Max Simpson, Jack Smith, Riley Lumb, Jack Johnson. Front from left: Will Gatus, Kai Morgan and Alfie Edgell. Picture: Leeds Rhinos.

Leeds player pathway development manager John Bastian – who recently returned to the club from Hull KR – said: “I’d like to say congratulations to all the players on their new contracts as they start out on their professional careers at Leeds Rhinos.

“It is a credit to them and the hard work they have put in.

“They are all talented players with good standards and the next stage will see them add intensity and a focus on areas of quality within their own development. In the long term, we would like to see all these lads go on to play in Super League for Leeds Rhinos.”

Clearly, Rhinos have had success in this regard in the past and it is hoped the current group will help form the bedrock of the club’s squad in future years. Bastian added: “Our talent ID team, led by Simon Bell, have done an outstanding job in identifying these players, going out in all weathers to find the best talent, watching their development since some of them were 10 or 11.

“It is a great moment to see them now sign their first professional contract.

“They then began their journey with Leeds Rhinos in the Scholarship under Mark Butterill, who makes sure that the fundamentals are in place with their skills honed to a high standard and that they recognise what it takes to be a high performance athlete.

“That work is continued by Chev Walker as they move through the ranks.

“I cannot emphasise enough how important the role of these coaches is in the development of our young people.”

Head of player production Walker, of course, came through the academy ranks himself before going on to be part of Rhinos’ first Grand Final winning side in 2004 and also representing Great Britain.

Bastian concluded: “We also offer the players tremendous support with our dedicated strength and conditioning and medical staff and everyone contributes to developing these players.

“However, now they have this opportunity, it is down to the young men to show the desire and will to want to achieve that will decide how far they can go.”