Six of Bradford’s academy stars have signed first-team contracts for 2017.
James Bentley, Liam Kirk, Ross Oakes, Brandon Pickersgill, Josh Rickett and Brandan Wilkinson have all penned professional contracts with the club.
The group have all progressed through the Bulls Youth system and will join up with Rohan Smith’s first team squad at the end of the season following in the footsteps of last year’s graduates Ethan Ryan and Joe Lumb.
Pickersgill, Bentley and Kirk featured in the pre-season friendly against Castleford Tigers in January, which saw Kirk cross the whitewash in the win. Whilst Oakes has featured twice in the first team in 2016 in victories against Dewsbury Rams and Workington Town.
“I’ve supported Bradford since I was three years old when I used to come to the games with my Grandma and Grandad and I’ve had a season ticket ever since, so it’s a dream come true,” Oakes said.
“The club have given us a great opportunity, which has allowed us to progress into the first team,” Kirk said.
“Pre-season will be a great opportunity to show everyone what we can do. As long as we work hard and keep working hard in training we might get a chance in the first team.”
“I’m buzzing to have signed and achieve one of my dreams making the step up to the first team, and I can’t wait to get started now,” Bentley said.
“It was a really good feeling to be given a first team contract and I can’t wait to get going,” Pickersgill said.
“It has been a long journey but I can’t wait to be fully involved in the first team.”
“It is a dream come true. I always wanted to play rugby for a professional club when I started at the Bulls in the Under 15s,” Wilkinson said.
“I’m pleased to have come all the way through the ranks and got into the first team.”
“It has always been a dream to get into the first team. I have always supported the Bulls since a young age,” Rickett said.
“Playing for the team you support was always something I have wanted to do and it is great experience and hopefully we’ll all kick on.”
Academy Coach Leigh Beattie said he is extremely delighted for them.
“It is a long and tough journey for them from the Under 16s to Under 19s and now to the first team.
“These lads have worked extremely hard to get where they are now and deserve everything they’ve got.
“There is another crop of lads coming up, plus another crop after that, so at the minute the Youth system is looking really good.”
“A lot of hard work has gone into the Youth setup by everybody at the club,” Head of Youth John Bastian said.
“Now, we are starting to see the growth of junior players coming through at Bradford Bulls. That is credit to the Board of Directors and it is credit to the Youth staff and the young players for working so hard.
“Bradford Bulls has got a huge history of producing young players who have been developed in the club and that process has started to rebuild again. The more players we get through to our first grade squad the better for Bradford Bulls and the better for rugby league.”