Tony Smith makes Hull FC youth commitment after five products sign deals

HULL FC coach Tony Smith wants to see even more local lads in his squad after the addition of five products of the club’s centre of excellence scheme.

Wingers Harvey Barron (19), Lewis Martin (18) and Manoa Wacokecoke (18) and props Will Gardiner (21) and Matty Laidlaw (18) have all committed to the Black and Whites.

They join teenage trio, fullback Davy Litten, hooker Denive Balmforth and second rower Charlie Severs as players who have come through the Hull’s ramped-up youth programme to pen senior deals.

Barron, Gardiner, Laidlaw, Litten, Balmforth and Severs all played in the first team this year.

And Smith, who succeeded Brett Hodgson at the helm in September, says he is happy to give his youngsters opportunities.

“Junior development is important for every club, but ours in particular, because it gives a connection with everybody in the city, especially young people with aspirations to play for us one day,” explained the ex-Hull KR coach.

“I think it’s vitally important for young people who have supported the club through their childhood to look up to others from the city who have built successful careers.

“It doesn’t matter what age somebody is if they are physically and mentally well-developed enough to play.

“Youth development is part of a clear focus at our club, which has made great strides in recent times.

“I am looking forward to helping that continue, starting with this group of younger players who will have a key role to play in our first-team environment.”

Laidlaw was Hull’s break-out star of last season, making eight Super League appearances towards the end of the campaign.

He also shone for Michael Shenton’s Hull Academy side, earning that team’s player of the year award.

Barron played in four first-team games following a loan spell at Whitehaven.

Meanwhile Gardiner started the 2021 season at community club West Hull and ended it having played in Super League following a decision to put his job as a plumber on hold to focus on rugby.

Hull have confirmed that prop Aidan Burrell, hooker or halfback Jacob Hookem and halfback Marcus Walker have all left the club, while centre Max Clarke, who played for the Reserves this year, has joined Bradford.