Leeds Rhinos Academy coach Chev Walker says the addition of Jack Sinfield and Max Simpson to the first-team squad should act as a big incentive to the club’s other talented youngsters.
Halfback Sinfield, the son of Kevin, and centre Simpson, both 17, have signed full-time professional contracts after joining the Rhinos development system from community clubs Saddleworth Rangers and Kippax respectively.
And former Leeds and Great Britain ace Walker says the club’s other Academy players should be encouraged by their promotion.
“Back in my days in the Academy, we saw Kevin (Sinfield) and Jamie (Jones-Buchanan) stepping up, and we were chasing them,” said the 39-year-old.
“Now the current Academy players will be chasing Jack and Max. They will have seen them being promoted to the first-team squad and realise there is a crack in the door that they can force their way through.”
Walker’s Under-18 side will take part in a twelve-team, 13-round Academy Championship next year.
It will also feature Bradford, Castleford, Huddersfield, Hull FC, Hull KR, London Broncos, Newcastle, St Helens, Wakefield, Warrington and Wigan and starts on March 12.
It will run alongside a revived Reserves competition featuring 13 teams (Salford will also take part) playing 14 rounds, starting on February 19.
The two Championships will be played on alternate weeks to help manage the demands on clubs and their players.
Both will culminate in a play-off series with a Grand Final, on September 17 for the Reserves and the weekend of September 24/25 for the Academy teams.
A Reserves competition was reintroduced in 2020, only to be halted by the pandemic.
Walker’s former Leeds team-mate Danny McGuire will coach Hull KR’s second string, combining the role with that of assisting Tony Smith with the first team.
Reserves: Huddersfield v Salford, Hull KR v Hull FC, Leeds v Newcastle, St Helens v Bradford, London Broncos v Warrington, Wakefield v Castleford.
Academy: Hull FC v London Broncos, Hull KR v Bradford, Leeds v Newcastle, St Helens v Huddersfield, Wakefield v Warrington, Wigan v Castleford.
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