Salford Red Devils hand professional contracts to fullback and former St Helens forward

SALFORD RED DEVILS have handed a professional contract to Nathan Connell and Jamie Pye.

The youngster has already been a regular part of Paul Rowley’s first-grade squad this season, but he has now penned a deal which sees him officially become a first-team player.

Connell has been involved with the club since the age of 14 and progressed through the Salford Red Devils Foundation’s Rising Stars programme.

He signed-up for the Dual Development College Academy at Eccles Sixth Form college, where he studied a Sports BTEC alongside developing his rugby league skills.

Quickly making his name as a fullback, Connell spent three hugely beneficial years with the Development Academy and, in his final season, captained the side to a fourth-place finish and picked-up the Players’ Player of the Year award.

It was also during that period where he made the step-up to Reserve grade rugby and appeared for the first time on the wing against London Broncos.

He has since become a regular starter for Stuart Wilkinson’s side and impressed enough to earn multiple appearances for Ireland’s U19s.

That includes the 2022 European Championships, where he was named fullback of the tournament after some outstanding performances.

Connell was called-up up to train with the first team in pre-season and was involved in various match day squads before making his Betfred Super League debut against London Broncos in early-June.

In reaction to signing his first pro contract, Connell has said: “I’m delighted to have signed my first professional contract with Salford Red Devils.

“As a young player, I’m eager to give my all to the team and the fans. I’m grateful for this opportunity and I am excited to officially be part of such a great club.

“I’m continuing to work hard this season, but I’m already looking forward to the 2025 season and what awaits.”

Head Coach, Paul Rowley has added: “Nathan has taken a different route to becoming a full-time pro rugby player.

“He’s had to show resilience and an admirable attitude to never give up and have belief. Both Nathan and Jamie are a pleasure to work with and epitomise what our club is about – hard work, belief and opportunity.

“Nathan has a great future ahead of him and everybody is really pleased for him.”

Meanwhile, Pye has enjoyed previous experience in St Helens’ academy set-up and was selected for England Academy’s tour of Australia, which was cancelled due to Covid.

The prop forward has penned a deal which also sees him become a full-time member of Paul Rowley’s first-grade squad for 2025.

After eight months of working closely with the coaching staff and experienced members of the dressing room, Pye has earned his chance to impress next season and will certainly be someone to keep an eye on.

Speaking exclusively to the club’s YouTube channel, he said: “It’s a dream come true. It’s what you dream of as a kid trying to come through at a club and get a first-team contract.

“I was terrified at first, thinking ‘am I good enough, am I good enough’ but we’ve got a great group of lads here and they made me feel welcome the minute I stepped through the door.

“All credit to the lads, they’ve pulled me through and made me feel at home. It’s a very tight circle and I think that’s why we’re doing so well this year.”

The 21-year-old has also stated that he learned a lot from his young career at his boyhood club.

“It’s only this year I’ve realised how much it shaped me. It gives you that gratitude of having this opportunity at a rugby team, not many people get it.

“As a kid, you might think ‘I deserve it, I deserve it’ but you really don’t, and you need to keep working hard – and all them endeavours really shaped me to come and do well here,” he finished.

Click here to get the digital edition of League Express

Click here to subscribe to the print edition of League Express

League Express is also widely available from local newsagents across the north of England.

Click here to listen to the League Express Podcast