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Leeds Rhinos sign 15 academy graduates including son of Grand Final winner, Fijian international’s brother and four first-team players

Leeds Rhinos have confirmed the long-term future of several of the club’s young stars with 15 academy graduates being handed new contracts.

It’s a significant set of retention for Leeds Rhinos who became one of Super League’s powerhouse teams off the back of their youth development and subsequent ‘Golden Generation’ during the 2000s.

Leeds Rhinos confirmed the 15 new deals had been handed out to a range of players, some still first-year academy players whilst others are already fully-fledged Super League players after breaking into the first team.

Of the 15 news deals handed out, four have gone to players that have made Super League debuts with the longest of those being a four-year deal handed to winger / full-back Riley Lumb who scored a brace on debut against Hull FC before sustaining an injury.

There is also a deal for the son of a Rhinos legend and the sibling of a current Super League winger.

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Leeds Rhinos secure their future with 15 contract extensions

Leeds Rhinos youngster Riley Lumb

Credit: Imago Images

The club confirmed the news yesterday as they released a statement announcing the retention of their 15 young talents who range from the ages of 17 to 21.

With a new head coach imminent, securing the future of the next generation is paramount for the club and they’ve now ensured that.

The club revealed: “Leeds Rhinos have announced new contracts for 15 of the club’s brightest young graduates from the club’s academy.

“Ranging from new long term deals for first year Academy players to extensions for players who have already broken into the first team squad, the deals are a significant investment in the club’s talent and long term planning.

“The longest deal will see loose forward Presley Cassell, who joined the club this year having previously played at West Bowling and Siddal, agree a new five year contract that will keep him at AMT Headingley until at least the end of the 2028 season.

“There are four year deals for half backs Fergus McCormack, Harry Smith and George Brown, props Jayemm Oladipupo and Joe Butterfield, back rows Jacob Stead and Ben Littlewood, full backs Joe Diskin and Harley Thomas and centre Marcus Qareqare.

“Four players who have already made their Super League debuts also get new deals with winger Riley Lumb signing for four years, Ned McCormack and Alfie Edgell three years each and Tom Nicholson-Watton agreeing a two year deal to keep him at the Rhinos until at least the end of next season.”

Ian Blease oversees huge retention

Ian Blease, new Leeds Rhinos sporting director, at Salford Red Devils stadium

Credit: Imago Images

Commenting on the new deals, newly-appointed Leeds Rhinos Sporting Director Ian Blease said, “Leeds Rhinos has always been proud of its track record of not only developing quality, young talent but also giving opportunities for them to play at the highest level. You only need to look at the contribution of Alfie Edgell and Ned McCormack in last week’s win over Leigh to see that continues to be the case. This next generation will be hoping they too can make their mark and follow in the footsteps of fellow Rhinos Ash Handley and Harry Newman who are both academy graduates in the England squad this weekend.

“On behalf of everyone at the club, I would like to thank all staff who have worked on the development of these young players thus far, their tireless dedication over the years has led up to this commitment by the club along with the support each player has received from his family and community club.”

Leeds Rhinos Head of Youth John Bastian commented, “It is a significant commitment by the young Rhinos players and the club. This is a group of talented young men, who cover all positions, and have time to develop in the Super League squad and push hard to compete for a starting position in the team in the years ahead.”

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