Each year, Super League’s young guns gear up ready for a shot at staking their claim for a first-team spot. But, just which ten are currently the ones to watch in 2021?
10. Innes Senior – Wakefield Trinity
After moving on-loan to Wakefield midway through the 2020 season from Huddersfield, Senior became an important figure for Trinity in what was a poor season for the club. The flying winger made eight appearances, but many more will await the 20-year-old in 2021.
9. Ethan Havard – Wigan Warriors
Ethan Havard made 11 appearances for the Warriors in 2020, underlining himself as one of the most exciting youngsters in the league with some massive minutes. Just 20, Havard has huge potential and 2021 will be a big year for him.
8. Morgan Smithies – Wigan Warriors
He made 16 appearances for the Warriors in 2020, but the best of Morgan Smithies is yet to come. After all, the uncompromising forward is merely 20 years of age, yet has become a pivotal part of the Wigan pack in recent seasons. Not afraid to take the game to other, bigger forwards, Smithies is also a tackling machine.
7. Harry Smith – Wigan Warriors
Still only 21, Harry Smith made 17 appearances in a Wigan jersey in 2020, including a stand-out show in the Warriors’ 29-2 victory over Hull in the semi-final play-offs. With a brilliant left boot and a mature head on young shoulders, Smith brings something different to a more flamboyant Wigan side.
6. Danny Walker – Warrington Wolves
It must be difficult being behind Daryl Clark at Warrington, but Walker provides the perfect complement to the ex-Castleford star. 16 appearances for the Wolves in 2020 later and the livewire hooker has firmly established himself as a superb understudy. And, he’s still only 21, something which Warrington fans should be incredibly excited about.
5. Jack Welsby – St Helens
Who could forget the Grand Final winner, Jack Welsby? The youngest on this list at the tender age of 19, you wouldn’t have guessed it following such an impressive 2020. With 18 appearances under his belt, Welsby played on the wing, at centre and in the halves as he proved himself on the big stage.
4. Joe Cator – Hull FC
Cator enjoyed a breakthrough season for Hull in 2020, appearing 13 times – 12 of which came after the resumption of the season. The 22-year-old had started the year on-loan at Bradford, but fought his way into ex-interim coach Andy Last’s reckoning. And, boy did he take his chance, mixing it with more formidable Super League forwards to actually become one of Hull’s most consistent stars.
3. Jacques O’Neill – Castleford Tigers
He made 12 appearances for the Tigers in 2020, but O’Neill may not even have got his chance had it not been for an injury crisis at the Jungle. The 21-year-old enjoyed a superb year, being crowned Castleford’s Young Player of the Year after a string of impressive performances including a stand-off with Hull’s Gareth Ellis which brought O’Neill firmly into the limelight.
2. Harry Newman – Leeds Rhinos
Newman played just 12 games for Leeds in 2020 before succumbing to a horrific double-leg break injury. But, the 21-year-old’s rate of recovery has shocked almost everyone in the game and he appears ready to take 2021 by storm.
1. Matty Ashton – Warrington Wolves
Following 30 tries in 25 appearances for the Swinton Lions, Ashton was signed by Warrington ahead of the 2020 season, and wow did that gamble pay off. Despite making just 13 appearances for the Wolves, Ashton proved his class almost instantly, scoring nine tries and earning two man-of-the-match awards. Watch out in 2021 for the pacey three-quarter.