The Super League season is now less than 30 days away with a number of pre-season fixtures having passed and another slate coming this weekend.
Those pre-season friendlies often see young players get a chance to prove themselves to their head coach and try make an impact on the squad.
For some young players though they’re already established players and take up starting spots for their clubs so we’ve put together a team of the youngest players set to play in the 2023 Super League campaign using presumed starters i.e. those with shirt numbers one through thirteen.
With only a few squads not having released their shirt numbers for 2023, the 2022 numbers will be used in that case.
1: Jack Welsby: 21-years-old
Despite his young age Welsby is already one of the best full-backs in the competition. A versatile player he made his debut for England at the recent World Cup following on from the Young Player of the Year award for the 2022 Super League season.
2: Josh Thewlis: 20-years-old
Thewlis will turn 21 in April but he’s earned himself the starting number two shirt at Warrington heading into the 2023 season and will receive plenty of opportunity with the talented duo of Peter Mata’utia and Stefan Ractchford set to play in the centres alongside the youngster.
3: Corey Hall: 20-years-old
Hall had a breakout season at Wakefield alongside winger Lewis Murphy but it’s Hall who makes this team with Murphy opting to retain his 23 shirt. The former Leeds Rhinos’ man will feature in one of the youngest squads and he’ll be key to any success for Mark Applegarth as he looks to build on his maiden campaign with Trinity.
4: Jake Wardle: 24-years-old
The oldest player to feature in this squad so far is Wigan Warriors’ newest recruit with Wardle joining from Huddersfield Giants having had a successful loan spell at Warrington during the 2022 season. Capped once for England Wardle takes Iain Thornley’s number four shirt with Thornley dropping down to number 21.
5: Jon Bennison: 20-years-old
Having turned 20 in December Bennison is incredibly young, especially when you consider the maturity with which he approaches the game. Saints will be aiming for their fifth Grand Final in a row and the fact that their backline will feature the likes of Bennison and Welsby will be a scary thought for the foreseeable if they can manage to retain them.
6: Jake Trueman: 23-years-old
Trueman will turn 24 before his first Super League game as a Hull FC player but having impressed at Castleford since making his Super League debut at just 18-years-old, he’s made the switch to pair up with Tony Smith and the Hull FC revolution.
7: Lewis Dodd: 20-years-old
Dodd turns 21 in late January but it feels like the talented Saints youngster has been around for a lot longer than that. Having missed much of the 2022 campaign following an achilles injury picked up against Wigan in St Helens’ Good Friday victory, Dodd is back for 2023 and will pair up with another player returning from injury in Jonny Lomax as the Red Vee push for an incredible fifth consecutive grand Final win.
8: Mikolaj Oledzki: 24-years-old
Oledzki has found himself become a key member of the Rhinos’ pack in recent years and the Polish-born prop has even featured for England, such are the levels of his performances to earn a call-up. The big number eight will aim to keep the momentum that Leeds found under Rohan Smith as they head into 2023, although for the time being he sadly remains injured.
9: Edwin Ipape: 23-years-old
Following Leigh’s announcement on Friday of their squad numbers, the talented Papua New Guinea international Edwin Ipape has been promoted to the number nine shirt. He wore the number 21 in his first season in England but given his pivotal role in their promotion, which has been reflected by the fact he’s the favourite in the Man of Steel betting, he’s taken the number nine and heading into his age 24 season looks set to shine.
10: Liam Byrne: 23-years-old
The Wigan Warriors’ Irish international pips out the likes of Matty Lees and Jai Whitbread to take his spot in this team. Having starred at the World Cup for Ireland, Byrne has effectively swapped shirts with Patrick Mago indicating that the 23-year-old is set to build on his 24 appearances in the 2022 season.
11: James Bentley: 25-years-old
The man who seems to attract controversy takes up the first of the second-row positions as he comes off the back of a World Cup campaign which drew more attention to him off the field than on the field, with the alleged Victor Radley incident following England’s semi-final defeat to Samoa. On his day though Bentley is brilliant on the pitch and will be hoping for as successful second campaign at Headingley.
12: Matty Nicholson: 19-years-old
Nicholson joined the Wire midway through last season and he’ll have plenty of players to learn from in his position having come through with Wigan where the likes of John Bateman and Liam Farrell will have helped him develop. Moving to the Halliwell Jones though, Nicholson gets the starting number 12 shirt at just 19 and will learn from the likes of 2017 World Cup winner Josh McGuire and Ben Currie who is in his testimonial year.
13: Morgan Smithies: 22-years-old
Rounding out the youngest starting 13 based on their 2023 squad numbers is Wigan’s talented loose forward Morgan Smithies. Yet to feature for England he’s certainly someone that will be on Shaun Wane’s radar with the talented lock having debuted in Super League at age 18 and having strung together 70 Super League appearances already.
1: Jack Welsby
2: Josh Thewlis
3: Corey Hall
4: Jake Wardle
5: Jon Bennison
6: Jake Trueman
7: Lewis Dodd
8: Mikolaj Oledzki
9: Edwin Ipape
10: Liam Byrne
11: James Bentley
12: Matty Nicholson
13: Morgan Smithies