Championship Focus: Young players still looking for a 2021 club

The last 12 months have brought plenty of uncertainty to most people’s lives, and for a cluster of Rugby League players, that continues.

Those concerned are a mix of some whose planned circumstances for this year have changed, and those looking for a new opportunity.

Among them is former Widnes and London fullback Olly Ashall-Bott (pictured), who played three games in Super League last year on loan at Salford.

Tipped as one of the most promising players in the country when he initially broke onto the first-team scene with the Vikings, he is understood to have had top-flight interest for 2021 but has not as yet signed with anyone.

Ashall-Bott had been due to play for Ottawa Aces this year before their withdrawal, the same as talented French halfback Louis Jouffret, who is also understood to be keen to play in England again this year.

Jouffret, formerly of Whitehaven, Batley and Featherstone, is currently training with Avignon ahead of the French season but could be open to a move back to this country once the Covid-19 situation becomes clearer.

One player who had planned to play in France this year but has also seen his circumstances change due to the global pandemic is experienced playmaker Oscar Thomas.

It isn’t that long since the London Broncos graduate was playing full-time at Bradford Bulls, and, having had spells at Sheffield and Swinton since then, he knows all about what’s required in the second tier.

Thomas, like others in his situation, has looked to secure work outside the sport while he waits for his next opportunity.

It’s a similar story for former Hull FC centre Jack Logan, who is thought to have fielded offers for this year but is prepared to bide his time for the right chance.

Logan, 25, spent last year with Doncaster and has also had loan spells at Hull KR and Toronto in the past after debuting for the Black and Whites as a teenager in 2014.

Another Hull FC Academy product, Jack Sanderson, is also yet to find a new club after having left his last club Castleford, where he made three first-team appearances last year.

Sanderson can play both fullback and wing and has also spent time on loan at the Dons in League 1.

Another player with significant first-team experience is centre James Worthington, who was in Oldham’s squad for 2020.

The Wigan product has played first-team rugby with Swinton, Toulouse, London Skolars, Workington, Rochdale and the Roughyeds, having also featured at Super League level for his boyhood club in 2017, scoring twice on his debut.

Worthington lined up alongside Dec Kay at Oldham, and the experienced fullback or winger, who first caught the eye at first-team level with neighbours Hornets after coming through Warrington’s system, would be a good addition to any squad that is looking for outside backs.

Also with the Roughyeds over the last two seasons, on loan, is promising prop Titus Gwaze.

He has not been retained by Wakefield Trinity, despite making his top-flight debut last year. He had been approached with trial opportunities at two Championship clubs before the latest national lockdown stopped training at that level.

Then there are younger players coming out of Academy or reserve teams that have seen their opportunities limited by the sport’s circumstances and the demise of the reserves for 2021.

Prop Keenan Foster played under-18s Origin and has featured in the first team at Bradford Bulls, showing plenty of promise in the process.

Hooker Brad Jinks has caught the eye in Castleford’s Academy, but is now too old to play at that level, and it’s a similar situation for halfback Joe Barnes, who has impressed in Warrington’s junior ranks.

Those players, like all of those listed above, are now looking for their next chance to make an impact in professional Rugby League.

Hopefully those opportunities will arise in the coming weeks.

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