Rookies who made the grade

Regular readers of League Express will have noticed that in this week’s issue we focus on the rookies who we believe could make the grade in Super League in 2015.

Picking out young players to watch for the new season is one of the more interesting exercises we go through each year at League Express.

Last year, for example, the Wigan player we asked you to watch out for was Joe Burgess, and Joe justified his selection by winning the Albert Goldthorpe Rookie of the Year Medal.

So there is every chance that one of the players we have picked out this week could emulate the young Wigan winger.

Our spotlight on rookies goes back much further than 2008, however, which was the year we inaugurated the Albert Goldthorpe Medal and its rookie equivalent.

For example, in our edition exactly eleven years ago today, on 12 January 2004, we introduced our readers to twelve young players who we tipped to succeed.

We picked out 17-year-old Craig Huby from Castleford, 19-year-old Richard Whiting from Hull FC, Kevin Brown from Wigan and Stephen Myler from Widnes.

Myler recently celebrated scoring his 2,000th point, but unfortunately it wasn’t for a Rugby League team, but for Northampton in the other code.

But probably our wisest words were reserved for a young 18-year-old player who not many people had heard of called James Graham from St Helens.

“The stand-out player for England Academy Under-17s during their winter wins over the Australian Institute of Sport, James Graham faces a potentially massive 2004,” we wrote.

“The flame-haired prop, just 18, was man of the match in both games against the AIS, and earned a host of admirers for his all-action displays.

“Saints are undergoing a front row revolution this year.

“James Graham looks set to be part of it.”

It’s nice to see that we got that one right.

And 17 years ago, in our edition dated 12 January 1998, there was another even younger player who we highlighted and tipped for the top.

It was Kevin Sinfield of Leeds, but his comments to us indicated the self-effacing modesty that would stand him in good stead throughout his career.

“I haven’t won anything as a professional yet, have I? At the moment I’m still at the bottom of the pile.”

That was true then, but fortunately for Leeds supporters, not for long.

Martyn Sadler is the editor of Rugby League Express