With most of the media focusing on the experienced players in the 2015 Kingstone Press Championship, it’s easy to forget about the young talent that’s within the division. In the lead up to the opening round of games, NothingButLeague will be giving a lot of coverage towards the second tier. This article is dedicated to the rising stars of the Championship, the six players you should certainly be keeping your eyes on in the next 12 months and beyond.
Ben Reynolds – Leigh Centurions: It’s true that Ryan Brierley could get on this list but I’m going to focus on his potential half-back partner, should an injury occur to Martyn Ridyard. Reynolds has joined Leigh in the off-season from Castleford, he was on loan at York City Knights for the 2014 season. In the Championship 1, as it was called last season, Reynolds and teammate James Saltonstall jointly won the gong for Young Player of the Year in that division. The Cas youth product can also play at full-back which will be music to Paul Rowley’s ears as strength in depth is key for the Centurions in the coming season. Of what Leigh fans have seen of the youngster already, they will have been impressed as he featured heavily in the ‘Battle of the Borough’ preseason clash against Wigan, one which the Championship champions triumphed in.
James Saltonstall – Halifax RLFC: As previously mentioned, Warrington loanee Saltonstall was a big part of York’s end-of-season run to the top of Championship 1. With Richard Marshall moving from the Wolves to Halifax for the upcoming season, the new head coach at The Shay managed to snap up the utility back on a two year deal. An Italy international at 21, Saltonstall will be hoping to nail down a spot in the three-quarters in West Yorkshire. Fleet-footed with a few tricks in his armoury, the young talent will more than likely play a big part in Halifax’s charge for a top four finish.
Cory Aston – Sheffield Eagles: With a healthy amount of games under his belt in 2014, Aston will be hoping to gain more game time in the next 12 months. Contending for the half-back spots with seasoned professionals Kyle Briggs and Dominic Brambani, it’ll be a test of patience for the highly-rated youngster who’s been linked with Leeds Rhinos. Having come through the Eagles academy, and still only 19 years of age, Aston is a prominent performer in the Sheffield reserve ranks. With the Aston name carved into Eagles history thanks to coach Mark, will another chapter be written by young Cory?
Joe Keyes – London Broncos: Brought up through the London Broncos academy, half-back Keyes is set to have an extended run in the first team due to William Barthau being out injured. So does he have what it takes to adapt to Championship rugby, after a handful of matches in Super League last year? It’s not a secret that if a young lad is playing in the halves, the opposition forwards will be wanting to disrupt his game. Keyes will have to show grit, steel and determination to fight through the disruptions. Unlike the others in the list, it’s a sure bet that London’s young scrum-half will be in the starting lineup for the first game of the season against Doncaster at The Hive. The Broncos have the x-factor that will treat them kind in the Championship, an off-the-cuff style player who goes with the flow of the game. The capital club have a good knack of producing some fine talent, will Keyes be the next Londoner to be a regular fixture in Super League rugby?
Theerapol Ritson – Workington Town: Signed from the Cumbria Academy, Ritson was the lone scorer for the England Combined Regional Academies when the touring Australian Schoolboys came to town in late November. Ritson can play in either the full-back or wing positions, giving coach Phil Veivers a bit more choice on where to pick him when the time is right. Many talents in past years have been produced in Cumbria and Ritson will be wanting to keep that trend going with a good season in 2015. The Ellenborough Rangers product played a couple of games for Workington at the backend of last season, which included an appearance in Town’s playoff defeat to Dewsbury. Coach Veivers decided to make the move for the talented back in the months after the Rams defeat, as well as getting the signatures of Sam Forrester and Scott Akehurst from Maryport.
Brad Day – Batley Bulldogs: Arriving from Castleford Tigers, Day is a utility forward who’s an uncompromising customer. Featuring in the front or back row, John Kear has a bit of freedom in where to put the dominant youngster. Having made one appearance in Super League last season, the now former Cas man will be wanting to make a great impression at Mount Pleasant in 2015. Under the guidance of coach Kear, Day will be part of a very disciplined and professional side. Batley will be a place where the second-rower will learn a lot and progress well as a player. The 20 year old has already played a few pre-season games for the Bulldogs, as well as recording his first try in Batley colours against North Wales Crusaders. With experienced prop and second row forwards such as Alex Rowe and Lee Mitchell at Batley this season, a spot on the bench may well be where Day starts the season. Enthusiasm and effort will definitely be traits that will get Day far in West Yorkshire, a big season awaits for him.