Fletcher Rooney joins Castleford Tigers squad keen to turn focus on youth

FULLBACK prospect Fletcher Rooney has signed a three-year professional contract with a Castleford side keen to pivot towards youth.

Rooney, who only turns 18 next month, became the first player born in 2006 to feature in Super League when he made his Tigers debut in their final game of the season, an away defeat at Leeds.

Although signed on terms with the first team, Rooney will still go between the Academy team and Craig Lingard’s senior squad over the coming year, as Castleford’s head of rugby operations, Danny Wilson, explained.

“Sometimes entering the first-team environment can be a big jump, and in the past teams have fallen into throwing a kid in the deep end,” he said. 

“For Fletch we’re going to manage his development. We have big plans for him at this club, but it takes time. 

“We’ll be looking at a hybrid programme. He’ll be in two or three times a week when Craig and the staff feel it’s right for him to be involved and when it’s right for his development.”

Castleford are looking more broadly to transition to a younger squad, releasing eleven players aged 30 or over in recent months while signing ten new players for 2024, the oldest of whom is 27.

They also have Academy products Cain Robb, Sam Hall, Brad Martin and Jason Qareqare eyeing further first-team opportunities next year.

“A lot of the players that we’ve brought in this year, we want them to be successful not just this year, but the next four, five, six, seven seasons,” said head coach Lingard.

“With the age profile we’ve got, there’s now a lot of players in that age bracket where we can hopefully build a sustainable squad around for the foreseeable future. 

“We know not all of them are going to be successful, but if we can get 75 percent of the players we’ve brought in to be successful that bodes well for the future of the club.”