League Express recently published its annual survey of the Super League rookies who will be hoping to make a big impression this season.
All these players will be contenders for 2021’s Albert Goldthorpe Rookie of the Year Medal, which is presented by League Express. To qualify for the medal, a player must have played ten or fewer Super League or NRL matches before the start of the season.
We’ve selected 12 players here, but the eventual winner may not come from this list of players. Last year, Matty Ashton deservedly won the prize after figuring in this feature last year and then going on to make a big impression in his first season in Super League.
On the other hand, in 2019 we didn’t feature Morgan Smithies of Wigan, but he emerged to take the prize by the end of the season.
Here are the rookies we believe could prosper in 2021. We list one player from each club along with his date of birth, the number of Super League games he has already played before the start of the season and his junior club.
Date of Birth: 25/3/01
Super League Appearances: 0(4)
Junior Club: Dearne Valley Bulldogs
2021 Squad Number: 27
Lewis Peachey (pictured, above) will celebrate his 20th birthday the day before Super League’s 2021 season kicks off. He is one of a limited number of players who originate from a junior club in South Yorkshire.
Peachey came through Castleford Tigers’ Academy to make his debut for the West Yorkshire club in Round 12 of the 2019 season, coming off the bench in their defeat to Catalans Dragons in France.
He signed a new contract with Castleford in 2019 that will keep him at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle until the end of 2021 after being identified on the club’s England Talent Pathway.
He can play in most positions within the forward pack, including both prop and second row.
But as he leaves his teenage years behind, 2021 will be the year that Peachey will really need to make an impact if he is to secure another contract going beyond the end of this year.
Date of Birth: 2/5/99
Super League Appearances: 4(2)
Junior Club: Saint-Estève XIII Catalan
2021 Squad Number: To be confirmed
Arthur Mourgue has impressed in his six Super League appearances to date.
Domestically, he made his debut back in the Super 8s in 2018 against Warrington Wolves, but he also added to his appearance tally in the last two years, scoring his first Super League try in his only appearance in 2019, in the final round of the competition against Huddersfield Giants, earning two Albert Goldthorpe Medal points for his performance at halfback.
He then travelled down under with the French national team to take part in both the World Cup 9s and a Test against the Junior Kangaroos in 2019.
Although Mourgue was only a reserve against the Kangaroos, he started France’s game against Lebanon in the 9s.
In 2020 he made four Super League appearances, scoring six points with a try and a goal, and he will be hoping for more opportunities in 2021, especially in a World Cup year.
And it would bring enormous benefits for French Rugby League to see another French halfback making the grade in Super League.
Date of Birth: 12/10/99
Super League Appearances: 1(7)
Junior Club: Stanley Rangers
2021 Squad Number: 25
Owen Trout joined the Rhinos Academy in 2016 after impressing with his community club Stanley Rangers. His form earned him a call-up into the England Academy squad to face the Australian Schoolboys in 2018.
The younger brother of former Hull KR forward Kyle, Owen can play front row or loose forward
Owen made his professional debut for Dewsbury in 2019, going on to make 15 appearances for the Rams that season and that year he also made his Leeds debut in the Challenge Cup against Workington Town, while also playing for Featherstone Rovers on dual-registration.
He then made two Super League for the Rhinos that year, but switched clubs to Huddersfield for the 2020 season in a swap deal that saw Kruise Leeming head to Headingley.
Trout has plenty of opposition for a place in the Giants’ matchday squad, but if he gets an opportunity he will try hard to make the most of it.
Date of Birth: 18/12/01
Super League Appearances: 2(2)
Junior Club: Skirlaugh Bulls
2021 Squad Number: 19
Ben McNamara is the son of former Hull FC player, former England and current Catalans Dragons coach Steve. Having had four first-team outings in 2020, in which he made a strong impression, he is definitely a rookie to watch in 2021.
Another Hull FC Academy player to already have England Youth representation to his name, McNamara was named in the England National Academy Performance Squad for 2020 and would probably have featured in the Academy tour of New Zealand and Australia if it had taken place.
McNamara has a fine pedigree and he is a confident young player, having made his Super League debut on 1st October 2020, scoring a try when coming off the bench in a victory over Castleford Tigers.
He went on to make three more appearances in Super League and his game-management skills shone through. We are likely to see a lot more of him in 2021.
Hull Kingston Rovers
Date of Birth: 4/7/01
Super League Appearances: 5(2)
Junior Club: West Hull
2021 Squad Number: 20
2020 was a standout season for the Robins’ Academy product Mikey Lewis.
With a fine performance against Champions St Helens in a golden-point defeat in October, Lewis made a statement of his Super League credentials and gave the fans plenty of reason to be excited about what’s to come for the young halfback.
He made his Super League debut in 2019 against Wigan, in Round 25 of that year’s competition, and by then he had already spent much of the season picking up experience at League 1 club Newcastle Thunder, where he made seven appearances, scoring seven tries and 15 goals for 58 points in total.
Lewis has been given squad number 20 by Rovers’ coach Tony Smith, but with the club having retired squad number 6, which is dedicated to club legend Roger Millward, it appears that Lewis, unlike most of the players featured here, will start the season in his club’s starting lineup.
Date of Birth: 1/11/01
Super League Appearances: 3
Junior Club: Batley Boys & Dewsbury Moor
2021 Squad Number: 27
Earlier this month Leeds Rhinos announced that Batley born centre Jack Broadbent had signed a two-year senior contract with the club after three years in the Academy.
Twelve tries in 20 games in 2018 was Broadbent’s best in blue and amber; a hat-trick against Widnes early in the season and a playoff semi-final try at St Helens just a few of his highlights.
In 2019 Broadbent made three appearances for Featherstone Rovers on dual-registration early in the season, scoring two tries. Midway through the year, he went out on loan with Batley Bulldogs, playing eleven times and scoring three tries before injury ended his season.
In 2020 Broadbent made his Super League debut in round 14 for Leeds against the Catalans Dragons, partnering Callum McLelland at halfback, and he would make two more starting appearances for the side.
Still only 19, Broadbent has time on his side, but the young utility player is full of enthusiasm and will take any chances that come his way.
Date of Birth: 15/1/98
Super League Appearances: 1(1)
Junior Club: Blackbrook
2021 Squad Number: 22
Fullback or threequarter Craig Mullen began his career with Wigan, coming through the Warriors’ Academy system, earning international honours at Academy level and making his debut on the wing against Wakefield Trinity on 7 June 2018.
But he would only get one more opportunity off the bench that season, although he did play for Wigan against South Sydney during their early-season trip to Australia.
But in early 2019 he suffered a setback after being banned from driving for testing over the drink-driving limit and in that year he was loaned to London Skolars and Swinton Lions, where he played seven and ten matches respectively, before going on a season-long loan to Leigh in 2020, playing two games before the season was closed down.
At the age of 23, Mullen still has a strong ambition to prove himself a Super League player, now that he has joined Leigh on a full-time contract.
He has described 2021 as a “character building year”, and Leigh fans will be hoping that is true for both Mullen and the club as a whole.
Salford Red Devils
Date of Birth: 29/11/95
Super League Appearances: 0
Junior Club: Wallsend Eagles
2021 Squad Number: 27
At the age of 25, Sam Luckley is the oldest player to feature on this year’s list of rookies, having joined the Red Devils from Newcastle Thunder, via Ottawa Aces, for whom he had signed an initial contract on the basis of the Canadian club joining League 1 in 2021.
When that move had to be postponed, Luckley looked for an alternative club and the Red Devils stepped in.
Luckley, a native of North Shields in Northumberland, originally played rugby union, but switched codes and was picked up by Huddersfield Giants for their Academy system in 2014. He then returned to the northeast to take up an athletic scholarship to play Rugby League for Northumbria University while also playing with Thunder.
Now, having been given his chance to make an impact in Super League, the he will be anxious to make up for lost time.
St Helens: Lewis Dodd
Date of Birth: 27/1/02
Super League Appearances: 1(2)
Junior Club: Halton Hornets
2021 Squad Number: 21
Just turned 19, Lewis Dodd is a very highly regarded young player and is one of the latest young stars to come off the superb St Helens production line
A confident young scrum-half, Dodd signed for the St Helens Academy in 2017 and in 2019 he played 25 times and scored 21 tries, kicking a further 116 goals as he led the Saints Academy to the Grand Final.
His impressive form saw him called up to the England Academy squad and he made his Saints first-team debut in 2020 against Wigan. And in his second game against Wakefield Trinity he claimed his first try at first-grade level.
St Helens officials believe that Dodd has a huge future ahead of him and they are expecting him to make a strong challenge for a starting halfback spot in 2021.
Wakefield: Yusuf Aydin
Date of Birth: 13/9/00
Super League Appearances: 1(2)
Junior Club: Eastmoor Dragons
2021 Squad Number: 26
Prop forward Yusuf Aydin turned 20 last September and got his first taste of Super League for Wakefield Trinity when he made his debut off the bench against Hull FC on 10 September, making his starting debut against Leeds Rhinos on 1st November.
Aydin reportedly picked up a rugby ball for the first time just six years ago, when he joined the Eastmoor club in Wakefield.
Born and raised in Wakefield to a Turkish father and English mother, Aydin came through Trinity’s Academy ranks and already has international honours, having played for Turkey in 2019.
He was proud to wear the international shirt of the country of his forefathers and Wakefield’s coaching staff are confident that he will have a bright future at Trinity.
Warrington: Ellis Robson
Date of Birth: 14/9/98
Super League Appearances: 2(2)
Junior Club: Oldham St Anne’s
2021 Squad Number: 22
Backrower Ellis Robson made his debut off the bench for Warrington against Hull FC on 4th September last year, and, having caught coach Steve Price’s eye, he made three more appearances after that, two of them coming in the starting lineup.
Robson has some high-quality stars blocking his pathway into the first team, including Ben Currie, Jack Hughes, Joe Philbin and Jason Clark, and he is likely to have to wait for injuries to take their toll on his team-mates before getting more chances. But his performances in 2020 demonstrated that he is fully equipped to take any opportunities that come his way.
Robson was the captain of Warrington’s Academy team in 2018 and in 2018 he went to Dewsbury and Widnes on loan and also played for the Wolves’ partner club Rochdale Hornets.
Wigan: Umyla Hanley
Date of Birth: 5/3/02
Super League Appearances: 1
Junior Club: Shevington Sharks
2021 Squad Number: 30
Fullback Umyla Hanley is the son of Wigan legend Ellery Hanley, which is either a blessing or a curse, in the sense that he will face higher expectations than most of his rivals, while, with any luck, he will have inherited at least some of his father’s formidable ability.
Hanley junior was born in Wigan and started playing Rugby League at the age of 6.
He signed for Wigan’s Scholarship system in 2016 and was named the Under-16s Player of the Year in 2018.
He played one season in the Under-19s Academy, where he won the Grand Final and was Wigan’s joint top scorer with 19 tries overall.
He made his first-team debut for Wigan in September 2020, starting at fullback in a much-changed Wigan side that was defeated 0-42 by St Helens at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Like many players featured in this article, Hanley will rely in the first instance on other players pulling out with injury, but if he gets the chance we’re confident that he will provide Wigan fans with plenty of excitement.