With all the big name signings being made in the off-season, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Super League clubs are producing top-class youngsters.
We take a look at six of the brightest prospects coming through the youth systems across the competition and discuss how they could make their mark in the season ahead.
1. Matty Marsh – Hull Kingston Rovers
The Hull Kingston Rovers half was thrust into the first team in the Middle 8s following injuries to Albert Kelly and Terry Campese, and was impressive throughout. He made five appearances, scoring one try and this has resulted in him looking for more first-team opportunities this time around. With a strong kicking game to compliment his halfback skills, the 2014 Rovers Academy player of the year may be one to keep watch on throughout 2016, especially if Terry Campese isn’t fully fit like he was throughout last season.
2. Sam Wilde – Warrington Wolves
Sam Wilde has had a sprinkling of first team action with Warrington in 2015, with six appearances altogether and scoring one try away at Castleford. The utility forward can operate at second-row or loose forward, and offers options for Tony Smith, who was picking Wilde on merit in later games in the season due to his performances when filling in for injured regular. When Smith describes a player as “a star in the making”, you know there’s something about them, so keep your eye out for Wilde in the Warrington team in 2016.
3. Matt Whitley – Widnes Vikings
Matt Whitley has played 18 Super League games so far in his fledgling career, and will be looking to add to those throughout 2016. The young back-rower has already impressed at Under-19 level, and his breakthrough year last season meant he was a big player in helping the Vikings maintain their Super League statis in the Middle 8s. With Whitley signing a new three-year deal in April, the forward is expected to become a prominent figure in the Widnes back-row for years to come.
4. Oliver Gildart – Wigan Warriors
Midway through the 2015 season even Gildart himself would have probably admitted that him playing in the Grand Final that year was far-fetched. But the Wigan-born youngster came into the Warriors side in place of Anthony Gelling in the Super 8s and barely looked back. Gildart played seven matches for Wigan at the back end of the year, having impressed earlier in 2015 for the Salford Red Devils in a short loan spell. Although Dan Sarginson is back to full fitness, and with Anthony Gelling back in the frame, Gildart will be hoping his performances in the past 12 months give Shaun Wane a reason to feature him more during this season.
5. Jordan Lilley – Leeds Rhinos
During the Rhinos’ exhibition game defeat against New Zealand in November halfback Jordan Lilley was one of the players for the Champions that impressed. With Kevin Sinfield departing for rugby union, Lilley has already been tipped to follow in the legend’s footsteps, and he made his debut for the club at Wakefield in June 2015. Liam Sutcliffe will also be wanting to assert himself in the Leeds’ first team this campaign but with Danny McGuire getting older, expect to see Lilley getting a real chance to shine in the Rhinos’ starting 13 throughout 2016.
6. Jack Logan – Hull FC
With all the high-profile captures that Hull FC have made during the off-season, it has seemingly gone under the radar that Jack Logan has been handed the number four jersey for 2016. He has made 15 appearances so far in Super League and has a decent strike rate in the first-team from centre with seven tries. The Skirlaugh junior, who plays fullback as well and idolises Greg Inglis, gives Lee Radford some depth in his outside backs in the months ahead.