Last week’s League Express noted how positive it would be for another Matty Ashton to emerge from outside the top flight in 2020.
Ashton went from being barely known to topping the competition’s try scoring charts and earning a full-time deal at Warrington.
The six players below have all already made more first team appearances than Ashton had pre-2019, but each qualifies for their 2020 Young Player of the Year award, being 21 years old or younger on the first day of the season.
And all six look well placed to enhance their blossoming careers over the next 12 months.
Joe Brown (Bradford Bulls)
Utility back Brown returned to the Bulls from Wigan last season, having initially come through the Academy ranks at Bradford.
He won an Academy Grand Final and earned England recognition while at the Warriors, before making two first-team appearances with John Kear’s side last season.
Brown made an immediate impact in the Boxing Day clash with Castleford, with Kear observing: “He was a revelation on the wing, scoring two tries, looking very dangerous and competent in defence as well.”
As usual, the production line at Bradford is rolling at a fair rate, and watch out too for hooker or loose forward Thomas Doyle and prop Ebon Scurr.
Owen Farnworth (Widnes Vikings)
The young Vikings forward (pictured) made five Super League appearances as a teenager in 2017 and 2018, and was immediately earmarked as a player with a big future.
So it was hardly surprising when the Chorley Panthers product was tipped to move elsewhere during the close season.
But Widnes managed to hang onto their coveted youngster, who will now be looking to add to last year’s 16 substitute appearances and establish himself as a damaging Championship forward on a regular basis.
Winger Jayden Hatton is another Viking to keep tabs on.
James Meadows (London Broncos)
London coach Danny Ward expects homegrown halfback James Meadows to become a prominent figure in his squad in 2020.
Meadows featured twice for the Broncos this year as well as in seven games on dual registration for Sheffield, and Ward believes he is well placed to kick on again this year.
Ward said: “He’s only a young kid with lots to work on, but he’s got so many qualities – he’s a real leader on the field and talks very well.
Meadows is one of three London-produced young halfbacks in Ward’s 2020 squad, with Oliver Leyland and Ryan Horsman also looking to challenge Cory Aston and Morgan Smith for starting places.
Elliot Wallis (York City Knights)
Winger Wallis burst onto the Super League scene as an 18 year old in 2018 with two tries in six appearances for Hull KR.
The Robins rewarded him with a three-year deal, but injuries all but wiped out his 2019, having also cost him an England Academy spot the previous year.
Now back to fitness, he is looking to make the most of a season on loan at York City Knights, with a club and coach in James Ford that have a good track record of getting the most out of talented youngsters.
Adam Ford (Barrow Raiders)
One of the latest players from the increasingly prolific Furness Raiders talent production line, Ford will be looking to establish himself at first-team level this year.
The winger was marked down for a bright future when he scored two tries in the college final against Wigan last year, earning a two-year deal with the town’s professional club.
Ford also featured three times in the Championship for Paul Crarey’s team in 2019, scoring against Bradford, and that should stand him in good stead for the challenges ahead this year.
Sam Freeman (Rochdale Hornets)
Threequarter Freeman looked set for a big future at Widnes after winning the Academy Players’ Player of the Year in 2018 and then scoring four tries on his first-team debut last season.
He went on to pay a further seven times at Championship level, but was allowed to leave the club during the close season.
Recently relegated Rochdale were quick to move, and Freeman won’t be short of opportunities in a side looking to quickly rebuild and who will welcome his firepower out wide.