Leon Hayes on ‘pretty surreal’ journey from Warrington Wolves fan to first-team star

LEON HAYES is living his dream, going from boyhood Warrington fan to progressing through the club’s pathways and now into the first team at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

The young halfback has started four Super League games in succession, helping the Wolves to four straight victories.

Just 20, and with fewer than ten first-team appearances under his belt, Hayes has impressed with his calm game, organisation and kicking skills in the top flight.

“It’s a new experience and I’m really enjoying it,” he told League Express.

“It’s the first time I’ve had an extended run of games, so I’m taking it all in.

“A few of the games have been a bit scrappy but it’s important you get the two points. There’s a lot we can improve on.”

With George Williams and then Josh Drinkwater out injured, Hayes has stepped up in the halves.

The playmaker notched a try assist against Hull KR, a tackle bust in each game against Hull FC and Castleford, and has yet to make an error.

He is enjoying his run of games under new coach Sam Burgess.

“I get on really well with him, we’ve got a really good relationship,” he said.

“He’s done everything in the game and everyone’s got massive respect for him, so he’s really good.

“Hayes grew up in the Warrington area and was a Wire fan as a child. A Rylands Sharks and Bank Quay Bulls junior, he came through Warrington’s Scholarship and Academy sides before receiving a first-team debut in 2022.

“A team coming into my primary school introduced me me to Rugby League, I can’t remember how old I was,” he said.

“A team came in and I’ve played ever since. I loved it. I was a Warrington fan because my family supported Warrington when I was growing up. It’s pretty good now that I actually play for them.

“I’ve come all the way through at the club. It’s pretty surreal. I’m just loving every minute of it and trying to get better.”

Hayes is one of a number of Warrington Academy products making their mark at the Cheshire club this season.

Adam Holroyd, Max Wood and Connor Wrench have all featured heavily so far in 2024, along with Josh Thewlis.

“That’s how it should be,” he said.

“You want to produce your own players as much as you can. For all the lads who have come through the Academy, it means loads to them. We absolutely loved it.”

Hayes has always been a scrum-half throughout his younger days and says he has not modelled his halfback play on any past player in particular.

“I’ve always played half, pretty much,” he said.

“I think there was one game in Scholarship where I played nine, but apart from that I’ve always been a half. All the way through. I try to take bits from everyone really.

“Not necessarily one player, every player’s got different talents so you try and take something from them all.”