Championship Focus: Young pretenders to watch in 2022

Every season we see a healthy number of promising young players move out of Super League and into the Championship or League 1.

There can be a variety of reasons for this – the players exceeding Academy age limits, a desire for first-team rugby or being released by their top-flight club.

There has been another quota of talented youngsters find their way into the Championship and League 1 since the end of the 2021 season. Here are six to keep an eye on next year.

Reece Briers (Warrington to North Wales Crusaders)

The surname ensures there will always be interest in how Reece Briers’ career pans out.

The son of Warrington icon Lee, Briers junior has made the move to the Crusaders after progressing through the junior ranks at the Wolves.

He arrives in a North Wales squad that earned plenty of admirers for their performances last season, not least during a seven-match unbeaten run.

They also have a coach in Anthony Murray who has a good track record of improving players, which should be ideal for the next stage of halfback Briers’ development.

Oli Burton (Leeds to Batley Bulldogs)

Batley coach Craig Lingered saw enough in Oli Burton in four games on loan this year to persuade him to make a permanent move for the young hooker.

The Oulton Raiders, Stanley Rangers and Kippax Welfare product progressed through the Rhinos’ Scholarship scheme and into their Academy, where he played alongside his twin brother Joe.

And the family Rugby League link extends beyond that, with his dad Danny having played professionally with Dewsbury and Hunslet.

Oli Burton is also an England Youth international and was picked in national Academy performance squads, and now he gets the chance to test himself in the ultra-competitive Championship.

Tom Nisbet (St Helens to Leigh Centurions, season loan)

Winger Tom Nisbet is another player who is moving to familiar surroundings after having spent time on loan at the Centurions this year.

Now set to move for the full season, it looks the perfect time for the 22-year-old to establish himself a as first-team regular.

Also able to play fullback, Nisbet made his Super League debut for Saints in 2020.

He has represented Lancashire and England at academy level and joins fellow Saint Aaron Smith in spending the full season on loan with the Centurions.

Ronan Michael (Huddersfield to York City Knights, season loan)

Young Irish forward Ronan Michael’s Rugby League journey has been like no other.

Michael went from complete Rugby League novice to international squad member at a rapid rate and was picked up by Huddersfield Giants.

He was due to spend a year at Canberra Raiders only for Covid to ruin that, made his Super League debut and featured on loan for Swinton and Whitehaven.

Now he has the prospect of a more settled season with a full year on loan ta York City Knights – which should be the perfect environment for him to thrive in ahead of the World Cup.

Brad Graham (Castleford to Dewsbury Rams)

Dewsbury coach Lee Greenwood said he was “surprised” when he learned that Brad Graham had become available at Castleford.

But he wasted little time in moving for the 20-year-old centre or wing, who made three Super League appearances for the Tigers.

A Dewsbury Moor junior, Graham scored a top flight try against Huddersfield this year.

Now he should get more regular first team action, alongside another one to watch in former Wakefield player Ollie Greensmith.

Nathan Roebuck (Warrington to Keighley Cougars)

Another Warrington junior to fund pastures new in 2022, three-quarter Nathan Roebuck will join Wolves teammate Myles Tate at Cougar Park.

Roebuck should stand out from the start at 6ft 5, having won the Wolves’ Academy Player of the Year in 2019 after joining from Saddleworth Rangers.

He scored a try on his Super League debut at Salford and had loan spells at both the Red Devils and Leigh without featuring.

Roebuck also had time at Newcastle Thunder this year and now will be looking for more consistent appearances under Rhys Lovegrove.

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