Salford Red Devils have announced that Joe Coope-Franklin and Billy Walkley have been added to Paul Rowley’s first-team squad and will wear numbers 29 and 30 respectively.
The pair have both progressed through our partnership with Coleg y Cymoedd and the Welsh Rugby League Academy. After spending time in our reserves set-up, Paul Rowley and his staff have decided it’s the right time for them to join the first-team squad.
Coope-Franklin is a natural centre and has already made his Salford Red Devils debut in our final Betfred Super League game of 2022 against Warrington Wolves. Walkley is a full-back and will provide competition for Ryan Brierley and Dan Sarginson.
In reaction to making the step-up, Coope-Franklin said: “Being selected to train with the Salford Red Devils first-team full-time is a great achievement and something I have been aiming towards since I started training for the reserves.
“The reserves set-up has benefitted my rugby league understanding and skills. With the help of Stuart Wilkinson and the rest of the reserves coaches, my ambitions to be a professional rugby league player has come around sooner than I thought.
“The move up north was made easier by the support of UCLAN, where I have developed as a rugby league player too. Thank you to Paul Rowley for giving me this opportunity and I hope to take full advantage of it.”
Billy Walkley also said: “I am thankful for the opportunity given to me to join the first-team.
“The help from Stuart Wilkinson in the reserves and UCLAN, have made this move up north much easier for me, which allowed me to just be myself and perform throughout pre-season with confidence.”
Stuart Wilkinson, reserve team Head Coach, has said: “There are a number of Welsh kids within our pathway now. We have a really good partnership with UCLAN and the some of the local businesses, where these boys have been relocated.
“And within less than 12 months, Joe and Billy have caught the eye of the first-team staff. It gives a lot of credit to the people who are part of this pathway and make it possible for players to come from a different part of the country and start to develop their skills for life, alongside their rugby skills.
“Joe and Billy are the first to emerge from that pathway, and I’m speaking on behalf of everyone when I say I’m really proud. People like Chris Irwin, John Fieldhouse and Paul Trainor have worked really hard to find them positions locally with businesses and UCLAN.”
He continued: “They’ve thrived and flourished, and now caught the eye of the first-team staff, so we’re really excited to see them get a first-team contract and get ready for the challenge.
“They’re still teenagers, but as they get to work with World Cup stars like Tim Lafai and Man of Steel, Brodie Croft, I can really see these two young athletes kicking on.
“They could easily play for Salford for the next ten years if they show the same dedication and commitment that they’ve shown so far.”
Director of Rugby and Operations, Ian Blease added: “I’m absolutely delighted that our partnership with Coleg y Cymoedd and the Welsh Rugby League Academy has produced two players ready to step-up to the first-team.
“When myself and Paul Rowley went down to Wales in 2021, it was evident straight away that these two lads had talent and I’m thrilled that their hard work and dedication has earned them this incredible opportunity.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how these two lads progress and hopefully they are just two of many to progress through the same pathway.”