LEEDS Rhinos have handed Fergus McCormack a full-time contract with the club ahead of the 2023 season.
The halfback has spent the last two years in the Rhinos’ Scholarship programme and recorded six tries in five games in 2022.
He was one of twelve players from the Under-16s to sign for the club’s Academy for 2023, but this new deal will see McCormack join up with Rohan Smith and the first team squad for pre-season along with Under-18s trio Alfie Edgell, Riley Lumb and Jack Smith.
Speaking about signing his contract, McCormack said: “I feel amazing, it’s a bit surreal. I don’t think I’ve quite clocked it yet but my mum and dad are really proud. I don’t think they could be prouder.
“Mark Butterill, John Bastian and all the scholarship coaches have developed me, as well as the boys who put in the hard work and graft week in, week out, so I can’t thank them enough. Rohan talks a lot about the squad and how he likes bringing the youth up so that has inspired me to make the move into the first team.”
The club will also support McCormack off the rugby field too as he continues to study his A-levels at Woodhouse Grove. This expands the Rhinos’ connections in schools and colleges across the city which already includes Leeds City College and The Grammar School at Leeds, who work closely with Leeds Rhinos Foundation.
“Education is a big part of everyone’s life,” McCormack said. “Even though I’ve got the rugby contract, I still need to put work into my education. The fact that I can stay at the school and get to work with the Rhinos will improve both my learning and rugby skills.
Woodhouse Groves’ head of rugby Joe Bedford, who previously played for Doncaster Knights and Leeds Carnegie, has coached McCormack throughout his time at the school. He emphasised how proud they were of his achievements, saying: “I started teaching Fergus in year four at the junior school and you could see what a talent he was going to be.
“Every time he’s played, he’s given everything he’s got. He’s gone away and worked on his skills as an individual, not just as part of the team, and that is clearly what has got him ahead. To be playing both codes and to manage that has been tough for him but it’s worked out well for him.”
“We’ve got three boys now involved with the Leeds Academy and the fact that the club really value school rugby here at the Grove is very important.”
Leeds Rhinos player pathway development manager John Bastian added: “Woodhouse Grove has been really helpful in working a contract out that fits both Fergus and his education. There’s life after Rugby League so having a strong education or an apprenticeship so that you have something beyond the sport is really important.”