NextGen: Jack Charles, one of the jewels in Hull FC’s academy crown

Ross Heppenstall

Hull FC's Jack Charles. Credit: Dave Lofthouse

It has been a tough few seasons for Hull FC supporters at first-team level, but unmistakeable shafts of sunlight are appearing through the club’s youth ranks.

Tony Smith promoted eight Academy players into his senior squad during pre-season, including Jack Charles, who is rated one of the most promising young talents in the British game.

The son of former Hull KR, Castleford and Salford forward Chris Charles only turned 18 in January but made his Super League debut in the recent home win over London Broncos.

Level-headed Charles is tipped for the very top and Love Rugby League spoke to Hull FC’s Head of Youth Peter Riding about how the teenager is being carefully nurtured at his boyhood club.


Although born in Salford during his father’s stint playing at The Willows, Jack grew up in Hull and caught the eye playing rugby league for Beverley Braves.

He is a graduate of the Hull FC Scholarship system, having enjoyed two years with the Black and Whites’ Under-16s. During that time, Charles successfully kicked a last-minute drop-goal to defeat Hull KR in the Scholarship Derby in 2022.

A skilful footballer with the ball in hand, the teenager who has grown up supporting the Black and Whites is comfortable at full-back or half-back. He made his Academy debut against Bradford Bulls Under-18s in March 2023, scoring a try in a 36-10 victory.

Last year, Charles represented Yorkshire against Lancashire and played in England Academy’s win over France. Charles started at stand-off as England Academy defeated their French counterparts 33-20 for his only international appearance thus far.

Hull team-mate Cobie Wainhouse also came off the bench in Saint-Gaudens.  At the end of last season, the Black and Whites promoted Charles, Wainhouse, Kye Armstrong, Lennon Bursell, Mackenzie Harman, Jeylan Hodgson, Sully Medforth and Logan Moy into their first-team squad for 2024.

Having featured in all three first-team trial games during pre-season, Charles made his senior bow after coming on for the last 16 minutes of the home win over London on March 3.

It was a heartening sight and Riding says: “The first thing that stood out a mile when Jack came on against London was how he immediately began talking to his team-mates and getting people around the pitch. He was telling the middle men where he wants them and what he needs, which any good half-back does.

“That’s a fantastic sign and he had a couple of running opportunities and pass plays as well, plus he was involved in a really tight finish. We only won the game at the death, so the learning experience that Jack will take from the game is unbelievable.

“Jack is impressing the right people and both myself and Tony are confident that if he needs to call on him then Jack will again handle himself in a really positive manner.”

Style of play – Versatile

Charles played the majority of his junior rugby league as a full-back, but Hull are moulding him into more of a half.

Riding believes the teenager’s skillset is ideally suited to a modern-day half-back, saying: “Jack’s rugby IQ is absolutely up there with the very best of them.

“He sees opportunities and knows how to create openings as well, and on the back of that he’s got the ability and skill to execute what he’s seeing.

“Jack is a fantastic young man and has all the attributes and traits of someone who you want to represent Hull FC in a positive manner. He does that on and off the field – and his talent is obvious.

“There is a lot of hard work ahead of Jack because he’s right at the start of his career, but the consistency in his attitude and application is going to give him a really good chance of doing well for himself. For Hull FC, that’s exciting as an organisation.”

Riding believes Charles has the qualities to thrive in more than one position, adding that the club were reluctant to “pigeon hole” him to a particular role.

Riding adds: “I think long-term he’s going to be a half-back, I’m pretty confident about that. He can play at first receiver and take the team around the park, but he’s also got a strong running game too.

“There will be times this year when we also revert Jack to full-back, just for the challenge of it. He’s still an Under-18s Academy player, so our job is to find ways of continually challenging, improving and developing Jack.”

Charles reckons he could also comfortably play centre and loose forward if required.

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Combining academic and rugby commitments

Charles currently dips in and out of the first-team environment as he studies for a Level 3 BTEC in Sporting Excellence at Hull College.

Playing-wise, he will continue to feature in Francis Cummins’ Under-18s and reserve-grade sides this year while remaining under the watchful eye of Smith. Riding, meanwhile, is highly regarded in rugby league circles for his role in overseeing youth development.

He joined Hull from Warrington Wolves in January 2022, having previously worked at Huddersfield Giants, Wakefield Trinity and Castleford Tigers, where he oversaw the resurgence of their youth programme including an academy Grand Final appearance in 2017.

Riding says: “The game is about players taking their opportunities, but it’s also about the support mechanism you put around them. Part of our role is to guide players and make sure that people within the organisation show a degree of patience as well.

“Jack is not going to be a top Super League player overnight, but he’s a young player who is on the right track. He’s got some fantastic support from within rugby league at the club and his family, with his dad steeped in the game from his own playing career.

“With how we are supporting and guiding Jack, and continuing to find challengers for him at the right time, he’s got a really good chance of having a Super League career. He’s certainly got the potential to go a long way in the game.”

Charles recently met Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales at Hull FC’s Inclusion Day at the University of Hull. He spoke to her about his pride in representing the club and is now dreaming of winning trophies with the Black and Whites.

Player Profile

Name: Jack Charles
Date of birth: 30/01/2006
Position: Full-back/Half-back
Senior debut: London Broncos (H), 03/03/2004
Honours: Yorkshire and England Academy

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