There are more and more promising youngsters coming through in Super League each year, and we take a look at six of the best ahead of the 2012 season.
Tackle 1: Daryl Clark (Castleford)
The 18-year-old hooker has been handed the number nine jersey at Castleford, emphasising the hopes that the club have of the youngster, who scored seven tries in Super League last season. A product of the Tigers academy, Clark won Player of the Year in the Under 20s in 2010, and was able to kick on and force his way in to the first team last season, appearing in 18 Super League games. Compared to James Roby, Clark is quick off the mark from dummy half, and much will be expected of the Fryston Warriors junior this term.
Tackle 2: Eloi Pelissier (Catalan)
Another young hooker with lots of potential is Catalan’s Eloi Pelissier, who broke through in to Super League with 24 appearances for the Dragons last season. The 20-year-old made his international debut for France at the end of the season after impressing with his speed off the mark and his strength in the tackle. Had things turned out differently, Pelissier could be playing for Wigan, having played two games for their Under 18s during a trial in 2008, but failed to earn a contract, and wound up at Catalan via a two year spell at St Esteve in the French Elite One Championship.
Tackle 3: Tom Burgess (Bradford)
The six foot five prop is flying the Burgess flag solo in Super League this season, following the departure of brothers Sam, George and Luke to South Sydney. The 19-year-old could have followed his twin brother Down Under, but opted to fight for his place at Odsal, featuring in 20 games last term. His sheer size and power makes him a threat to any defence, and despite his relatively young age, he was able to adjust to the fast pace of Super League in his debut year.
Tackle 4: Olsi Krasniqi (London)
The Albanian front rower was one of the bright spots for Harlequins last season, and he will be a key figure for the London Broncos this term. At the age of 19, the Tirana-born prop has already managed 25 first team appearances, having made a try-scoring debut against Crusaders back in 2010. His strength and commitment has turned him in to a fans favourite at The Stoop, and also caught the eye of their Super League rivals, who will be sure to pinpoint him as a threat off the bench in 2012.
Tackle 5: Gareth O’Brien (Warrington)
Warrington coach Tony Smith has high hopes of promising young half-back Gareth O’Brien, who has been handed the number 24 shirt for 2012. He earned three first team appearances last season, before rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in the Challenge Cup match against Keighley. Quick with ball in hand, O’Brien attacks the line, but may well see his progress hampered by the signing of Stefan Ratchford. However, with Lee Briers nearing the end of his career, O’Brien, now 20, will need to stick his hand up and be counted when called upon.
Tackle 6: Matthew Wildie (Wakefield)
Scrum half or hooker Wildie was one of the beneficiaries of the uncertainty surrounding Wakefield last season, managing 17 Super League appearances as coach John Kear turned to youth. The highly-rated 21-year-old is a former England junior representative, and will be looking to force his way past the likes of Tim Smith and Isaac John in to the Wakefield set up this term, although the number nine jersey is the one he has hopes to claim. A product of the Wildcats academy, Wildie previously played for Stanley Rangers.