NextGen: Alfie Edgell – the Leeds Rhinos full-back who grew up idolising Danny McGuire

Ross Heppenstall
Alfie Edgell Leeds Rhinos Alamy

The 2004 Super League Grand Final win was one of the most special moments in Leeds Rhinos’ illustrious history.

It marked the club’s first league title in 32 years and laid the platform for a period of sustained success, inspired by the so-called Golden Generation of homegrown talent.

Alfie Edgell was still in nappies and not at Old Trafford to witness the famous 16-8 win over Bradford Bulls, but he was part of the celebrations nonetheless.

Edgell, resplendent in a Leeds Rhinos kit, was taken in a pushchair by his parents to the victory parade in Leeds city centre where crowds gathered to hail Tony Smith’s side.

Almost two decades on, Edgell is now living out his boyhood dream by playing for the Rhinos, having joined the club aged 14 before making his debut against Castleford Tigers last September.

The full-back, 19, is rated highly at Headingley and is expected to be given further opportunities this season as he looks to build his experience at Super League level.

Alfie Edgell: Background

Edgell hails from Kippax, a small former coal mining village near Castleford and around eight miles from Leeds city centre.

Another well-known sporting face from Kippax is Leeds United player Jamie Shackleton.

Edgell is a season-ticket holder at Elland Road but has also played rugby league and supported the Rhinos from a very early age.

He learned his trade with Kippax Welfare ARLFC before being signed by Leeds to their scholarship system as a 14-year-old.

His father Andy coached him at Kippax, where he played with Castleford winger Jason Qareqare and current Rhinos team-mate Max Simpson.

Edgell went to Brigshaw High School and won a number of trophies with Kippax and his school team before being scouted by Leeds and signed up. 

Rising through the Rhinos ranks

Edgell scored a try for Leeds on his first scholarship appearance against Newcastle Thunder and was awarded the Under-15s player of the season, setting him up for a big year in 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic meant the team did not play that year, but he returned to the club as an academy player in 2021 and signed his first contract.

Edgell was part of the club’s Academy Grand Final winning side in 2022, scoring six tries in eight appearances in addition to six games for the reserves too.

He was suitably rewarded at the end of the season as he was rewarded with a first team contract.

Another season in the reserves team saw Edgell only miss one game as he scored four times in 10 games.

He then made his Super League bow off the bench along with Tom Nicholson-Watton in a 46-0 win over Castleford at Headingley.

Edgell said: “Making my debut at Headingley was amazing and the club made it even more special by getting all my family in to present me with my jersey before the game.

“It was even better to get the win, so it was the perfect night really.

“I joined Leeds aged 14 and remember the difficult times during Covid when there were no games and I was training on my own.

“I’ve supported the Rhinos all my life, home and away, so to now be a part of the first team squad is surreal.”

Edgell is now in the second year of a three-year, full-time contract with the Rhinos’ first-team squad.

Style of play

Alfie Edgell Leeds Rhinos Alamy Alfie Edgell in action for Leeds Rhinos in 2023 (Alamy)

Described as a “good-decision maker” with a good rugby brain, Edgell played stand-off during his formative years at Kippax.

When Leeds signed him, they moved him straight to full-back and have carefully nurtured him through their vaunted youth development system.

Edgell can still play six when needed, but is now seen very much as a full-back with neat ball-handling skills.

He has the ability to produce a cut-out pass, a flat pass or go himself, with a level-headedness and a team ethic.

Rohan Smith has been impressed with Edgell’s attitude and skillset since he arrived as head coach midway through last season.

Edgell recalled: “Danny McGuire was the player I really looked up to as a kid, playing stand-off.

“My first run-out at full-back was when I started playing for the Rhinos’ Under-15s, but I can still play a bit at half-back as well. It’s good to have a few options.”

Hectic schedule with university studies

Edgell combines his training and playing commitments at the Rhinos with studying full-time for a degree.

It is not an easy juggling act but something that Edgell has grown accustomed to.

“I started a degree in Sports Business Management at Leeds Beckett University last September,” he explained.

“I’m full-time at the Rhinos and at university too, so it’s pretty hectic!

“But it’s a case of getting to as many lectures as I can and then catching up with anything I miss in the evenings and online.”

Leeds’ first-team squad and academy are flooded with promising young players, many of whom have come through the ranks together.

Max Simpson is a day older than Edgell, Jack Sinfield is also 19, while the likes of Morgan Gannon, Toby Warren and Tom Nicholson-Watton are of a similar age.

Edgell and Simpson car-share to training every day.

Competition for full-back spot

Leeds failed to make the play-offs last season after finishing in a bitterly disappointing eighth spot.

But a raft of new signings has encouraged hopes of a major upturn in 2024 under Rohan Smith.

One of those arrivals is Australian Lachie Miller, who will start the season as first-choice full-back.

But with Richie Myler and Luke Hooley having departed Headingley during the winter, Edgell is next in line and will be drip-fed into the team during the campaign.

Yet the teenager, who is likely to play in the reserves as well this year, said: “I’m not putting too much pressure on myself.

“I’m just trying to learn from Lachie every day and the coaches here such as Scott Grix, who was a great full-back when he played.

“Grixy does video work with Lachie and myself so I’m getting better every day and putting that into practice in training.

“Hopefully I’ll there or thereabouts when the season starts.”

Leeds open their campaign at home to Salford Red Devils a week on Friday and Edgell is expected to be fit after a slight hamstring strain ruled him out of last week’s friendly win over Hull KR.

Edgell, who featured in the Boxing Day friendly over Wakefield Trinity, added: “As a kid, I saw Leeds win the Super League title in 2009 and went to all their other Grand Final victories since then.

“Now we’re striving to get this great club back up there again.”

Player profile

 Name: Alfie Edgell

Date of birth: 25/07/2004

Position: Full-back

Senior debut: Castleford Tigers (H), 22/09/2023

Representative honours: Yorkshire 

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