Six Under 21s to watch in Super League this season

James Messenger

Here’s a closer look at six youngsters worth keeping an eye on in 2020. 

Corey Johnson (Leeds Rhinos)

Johnson is fresh on the rugby league scene but has already been tipped by many to have a bright future at Headingley. The 19-year-old made his professional debut on loan at Featherstone back in June, before making his Rhinos bow in their round 29 clash against Warrington. He has already been recogised on the international scene and was a member of the England Academy side which defeated Australian Schoolboys in their 2018 test series. With new Rhinos hooker Kruise Leeming set to miss the start of the new campaign, Johnson could easily get the chance to show what he can do from the bench.

Arthur Mourgue (Catalans Dragons)

Having come through the ranks at the Dragons’ feeder club Saint-Esteve Catalan, Mourgue made just one appearance in 2019, but what an impression he made. In the final game of the regular season against Huddersfield, the 20-year-old scored once, assisted once and made 10 tackle busts in a particularly eye-catching display. Now, the French youngster will be hoping to appear more regularly in 2020. Following the acquisition of NRL winner James Maloney and Challenge Cup winner Josh Drinkwater, this seems like the perfect opportunity for Mourgue to learn from some of the best. He certainly won’t appear week-in, week-out, but Mourgue is a promising squad player nonetheless.

Harry Smith (Wigan Warriors)

Wigan have impressive strength in depth for 2020, but that won’t stop Smith from fighting for his chance in the first team this season. The 19-year-old spent the majority of 2019 on-loan at Swinton in the Betfred Championship, scoring three times in 16 appearances. However, he did make his Super League debut against Catalans last season and will be hoping to build on that moving forward. With Jackson Hastings, Tommy Leuluai, Bevan French and Jake Shorrocks all vying for a spot at six or seven, chances may seem limited for Smith. Despite this, if any side in the competition is likely to throw an up-and-coming young half-back into the mix as the season progresses, it will be the Warriors.

Jack Croft (Wakefield Trinity)

Croft has only made four first-team appearances for Trinity, but he is already making somewhat of an impression. In Wakefield’s Challenge Cup quarter-final against St Helens in June, Croft scored on debut with his first touch of the ball. He joined Trinity’s Academy in 2017, signed a first-team contract in September 2018 and also became the first player born in the new millennium to represent Wakefield. Their new number 24 has an abundance of pace and will certainly keep the likes of Bill Tupou, Reece Lyne and Ryan Atkins on their toes in the fight for a centre spot.

Ethan Havard (Wigan Warriors)

Last year, Wigan’s Morgan Smithies, Ollie Partington and Liam Byrne all broke onto the scene, emerging as the latest crop of Warriors forwards. In 2020, could Havard add his name to that impressive list? The 6’2ft Bulgaria-born prop came through the amateur ranks at Wigan St Patricks and made his Super League debut against Wakefield last July. He has already started to grow into his sizeable frame, something which can’t be said for all young forwards, and could certainly develop into a useful asset for Adrian Lam, should injuries start to mount up.

Riley Dean (Warrington Wolves)

In August, Dean was thrown straight in at the deep end for his Super League debut against St Helens, and despite some initial nerves, he certainly didn’t look out of place. Warrington Head Coach Steve Price has already admitted he isn’t sure who will take the place of the injured Gareth Widdop for their season-opener against Wigan, so will it be Patton or 18-year-old Dean who gets the nod? The half-back excelled for the clubs’ Under 19s as they won 13 games in 2019, and with a permanent squad number now secured, he will be hoping to continue his development in first-team surroundings.