The 2019 season saw several youngsters break onto the Super League scene.
The likes of Jack Welsby, Harry Newman and Jake Wardle were among those to have stellar rookie seasons, so who will follow their lead in 2020?
We’ve put together who we think could make that step up…
Castleford Tigers – Joe Summers
🏆 Academy Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year both go to forward Joe Summers after a terrific campaign!
— Castleford Tigers (@CTRLFC) September 14, 2019
20-year-old Summers is yet to make his Super League bow but has been grafting hard in the Tigers’ academy for the past three years. He won both the Academy Player and Players’ Player of the Year awards in 2019, as well as representing the Yorkshire Academy against the Australian Schoolboys in 2018. A strong running back rower, Summers is set to feature heavily in Castleford’s pre-season fixtures and will be a key part of their reserves side in 2020. He has often been praised for his attitude in training and so will be determined to have an impact enough to earn a shot at the first team and compete alongside the likes of Jesse Sene-Lefao, Mike McMeeken and George Griffin.
Also keep an eye on: Lewis Carr, Danny Attley, Brad Martin
Catalan Dragons – Gavin Marguerite
“I’m really happy to have been given a chance at such a great club and it’s up to me now to make the most of this opportunity…”
— Catalan Media (@catalanmedia) December 3, 2019
The signing of French international Marguerite was, perhaps, one of the best pieces of business done during the off-season. Despite being virtually unknown in Super League, Marguerite has been carving out his career for Toulouse in the Championship since 2015, scoring 50 tries in 72 games. Still just 23-years-old, he’s been crying out for a shot at Super League and could well get his chance with the Dragons next year. Standing at 6ft2in, his athletic physique make him a handful to defend against, while he’s no stranger to finding the try line.
Also keep an eye on: Arthur Morgue, Paul Seguier
Huddersfield Giants – Reiss Butterworth
The departure of Kruise Leeming leaves the Giants with limited options to rotate with Adam O’Brien. And with most teams having finished their transfer business, it may be tough for them to find a replacement. That’s where Butterworth comes in. The 21-year-old Bradford academy product joined the club last season and struggled for first team minutes but could be the man to step up in 2020. A stocky hooker with superb defence, Butterworth won’t get a better chance than this season to show his ability and will be looking for a strong pre-season to impress coach Simon Woolford.
Also keep an eye on: Jon Luke Kirby, Dominic Young, Robson Stevens
Hull FC – Jacob Hookem
✅ First Senior Appearance 👏
✅ First Senior Try 🏉
Young Hull FC Academy half-back Jacob Hookem is one to watch for the future! 👀
— Hull FC (@hullfcofficial) January 5, 2020
While FC aren’t light in the halves, Lee Radford’s selection headache in that area could be worsened by gun scrum-half Hookem. The 17-year-old has been a standout performer for the City of Hull Academy and earned a call-up to the England Youth squad in 2019. Despite still being eligible for the U18s Academy competition, Hookem is likely to feature regularly for the Black and Whites’ reserve side after recently being given first-team opportunities in pre-season. He’s a livewire halfback, who can also operate at hooker, and has superb composure and vision for such a young player. There are several halves and hookers above him in the FC pecking order but impressive performances for the reserves could earn him a first team shot.
Also keep an eye on: Jude Ferreira, Charlie Patterson-Lund, Jack Sanderson
Hull KR – Will Tate
Halfback Mikey Lewis is one of the standout youngsters at KR, but not far behind him is outside back Tate. Tipped by head of youth John Bastien as a future star, the 17-year-old was a standout performer for the City of Hull Academy last season, having earned England youth caps the year before. He’s still quite raw, but is already showing signs that he’ll be ready for a first team call up in the not too distant future. He’s got a tall, athletic frame, making him explosive in attack, while his organisation in defence is also one of his top attributes.
Also keep an eye on: Mikey Lewis, Anesu Mudoti
Leeds Rhinos – Muizz Mustapha
— Newcastle Thunder (@ThunderRugby) September 2, 2019
Leeds have a whole host of youngsters to choose from but utility forward Muizz Mustapha seems the likely candidate to make the step up this year. Standing at just 5ft9in, he’s far from the biggest forward but his strength and explosive running makes him among the most dangerous. He made one appearance for the Rhinos last year, coming off the bench in the Challenge Cup and also had a loan spell with Newcastle, scoring three tries including this unbelievable 60m effort. With Leeds losing several forwards, the 19-year-old is likely to have a bigger role in 2020 and could be called upon by Richard Agar if he continues his rapid rise in form.
Also keep an eye on: Corey Johnson, Sam Walters, Jack Broadbent
Salford Red Devils – Connor Aspey
🔥 How good was @Connor_Aspey on debut?
— Salford Red Devils (@SalfordDevils) January 13, 2019
Aspey’s name should sound rather familiar to Salford fans. The 17-year-old was a triallist during last year’s pre-season and impressed with a try and an assist on debut against Swinton. He has been signed as part of the club’s reserve squad but could well step up to the first team if he impresses at that level. The good news for him is that he’ll likely be Ian Watson’s third choice hooker, following the departures of Logan Tomkins and Josh Wood, and the acquisition of exciting Australian Connor Jones.
Also keep an eye on: Luis Roberts
St Helens – Lewis Dodd
Saints may have lost one talented halfback in Danny Richardson, but there’s another youngster waiting in the wings for his chance. 17-year-old Dodd was a standout in his debut season for the Saints’ academy last year, even earning a first team squad number and being 18th man for their trip to London in June. He possesses vision beyond his years and can control a game with his guile and kicking ability. He’ll likely play backup to Fages, Lomax and Welsby in 2020 but expect Dodd to be pushing for a Super League debut right from the off.
Also keep an eye on: Nico Rizzelli, Callum Hazzard, Jake Wingfield
Toronto Wolfpack – Andy Ackers
Now the dust as settled, just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me and us to get here. It’s only the beginning, what a feeling ❤️🐺💯 @TOwolfpack #superleague pic.twitter.com/06SMEQ04iv
— Ackers (@AndyAckers9) October 7, 2019
With Toronto currently having a squad of just 23, and their youngest player being 25-year-old James Cunningham, I’ve decided to go with a player who will make his Super League debut in 2020. Ackers, 26, was in both the Wigan and Warrington academy systems as a junior but never made a single appearance and has since been lighting up the Championship for Swinton, London and the Wolfpack. He was nominated for the Championship Player of the Year award in 2019, eventually losing out to teammate Gareth O’Brien. That came after a stellar season for the Canadian club, which saw him rack up 14 tries in 29 games. He’s long been considered one of the best British hookers outside of Super League, with his smart runs from dummy half and superb tackling technique making him an all-round player, and will be looking to make an impact during his maiden season in the top flight.
Wakefield Trinity – Connor Bailey
A skilful stand-off or back rower, Bailey is being tipped to break into Wakefield’s first team in the next two years. He’s been lighting up the academy competition in recent seasons and was a standout player for Yorkshire in last year’s Academy Origin series. He has the build of a forward but the vision and technical ability of a halfback, with the coaching staff at Wakefield still yet to identify his best position. Playing regular reserve rugby in 2020 should help to solve that dilemma, as he’ll gain the experience of playing regularly against men.
Also keep an eye on: Yusuf Aydin, Ollie Greensmith
Warrington Wolves – Josh Thewlis
Thewlis showed glimpses of his talents last season, making two appearances for the Wolves, even grabbing a try against St Helens in August. Still just 17, his confidence and composure are superb and it’s those reasons why Steve Price was so confident about throwing him in at the deep end. He caught every high ball and showed some real promise with his kick returns, holding his own against men who were physically much bigger and more mature. The Wolves have lost several outside backs in the off-season, meaning Thewlis is likely to rise up the pecking order. He’s also likely to be Warrington’s regular reserve no.1, which should benefit him massively.
Also keep an eye on: Riley Dean, Jacob Gannon, Ellis Longstaff
Wigan Warriors – Harry Smith
I know it’s a little bit late but I would like to thank everyone for there support and messages. I debut I’ll never forget. pic.twitter.com/JvJXADwzi4
— Harry Smith (@harrytsmith7) September 9, 2019
Like Thewlis, Smith also got a taste of Super League last year, making a try-scoring debut against Catalans in September. The former Halton Farnworth Hornets amateur has been tipped as a future star for some time and could see the start of that journey come to fruition in 2020. A talented goal-kicker and organiser, he led the England Academy to victory over the Australian Schoolboys in 2018, before starting at stand-off in the England Knights’ victory over Jamaica in October. Despite George Williams’ departure, Smith will still be up against Jackson Hastings, Thomas Leuluai and Bevan French for a spot in the halves, but he’s certainly considered the Warriors’ best long-term option in that area.
Also keep an eye on: Ethan Havard, Kai Pearce-Paul, Umyla Hanley