A trio of teenagers and a 21-year-old have all been included in Leeds Rhinos’ 25-man senior squad by head coach Brian McDermott.
19 year-olds Ash Handley, Jordan Lilley and Ashton Golding have all been included as well as prop Jordan Baldwinson, who was named as Championship Young Player of the Year in 2015, while on loan with Featherstone Rovers.
Winger Handley, who made his debut for the treble-winners in a 40-36 defeat to London Broncos in 2014, came into the first team last season to cover for the injured Tom Briscoe and scored in 13 tries in 20 appearances.
The former Oulton Raider junior told the Rhinos’ website: “Last year was incredible with everything that the club achieved. As young players we know the standard that is expected of us. I think the success the team has had will motivate all of us to do it all over again. It might take us a few years to repeat what the last group of players has done but I think we will be able to get there again soon.”
Lilley made his debut for Leeds in June this year and went on to make six appearances for the club, including coming off the bench during the 20-13 Play-Off semi-final victory over St Helens in October.
Golding, who will combine his Rhinos role with his studies at Leeds Beckett University, made four appearances for Leeds last season having also made his debut in the defeat to London in 2014.
Golding and Lilley were team mates when they were younger at Stanningley ARLFC, and the full-back says it will be a great experience to continue their career progression together: “It is brilliant to be in the squad especially with Jordan. We have known each other since we were knee high at Stanningley and it is brilliant that we are both continuing to the next stage of our careers together. For me personally, this is a great opportunity to build on the things I learnt last season with a big pre-season.”
Baldwinson made over 30 appearances for Featherstone in the Championship last year, having previously had also had a loan spell with Bradford Bulls and a short stint with New Zealand Warriors.
The former Hunslet Warrior said: “It is great to be back at the Rhinos and I am really looking forward to next season. I know it is still a massive learning curve for me but being around the quality players we have at Leeds can only help me improve.”
McDermott said of the quartet: “All four of these young lads have been rewarded for their efforts last season. I thought Ash Handley showed incredible maturity during his time in the first team last season whilst Jordan Lilley and Ashton gave fans a glimpse into the future with their performances against New Zealand recently. Jordan Baldwinson was the Championship Young Player of the Year when he gained a lot of experience in a tough division for a young forward.”