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EDITOR’S COLUMN | The Kids Are Alright

UK Editor Sean Hayes looks at the youngsters breaking through in Super League, as clubs are finally giving youth a chance to shine.

Last season Harvey Livett featured as a stand-off for Rochdale Hornets on dual-registration.

That’s the same Harvey Livett who dominated Leeds Rhinos last Friday night at second row, with a hat-trick display for Warrington Wolves in their impressive victory over the champions.

The youngster has played for the Wolves’ partner club four times this season, picking up the man of the match award in a narrow loss to Halifax in his more comfortable position in the pack.

Despite the Sky Sports ‘legends’ seemingly watching his display against the Rhinos with their eyes shut, he was also the best on the field in that victory too.

Livett has featured in Warrington’s last three outings, and is just one of a number of young talents benefitting from extended game time in 2018.

Danny Richardson has been stealing the headlines at St Helens, with the halfback performing well beyond his years as he guides the league leaders around the park.

His England Knights call-up could soon be followed by a step-up to the national side if his performances continue, and it is all down to the club’s dedication to blooding their academy graduates in the first team.

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Mark Percival, Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Adam Swift, Morgan Knowles, Luke Thompson and  Regan Grace all have plenty of things in common. They all stepped up from the academy, they were all given time to adjust to Super League and they have all become first team regulars.

Wigan Warriors have a similar philosophy and have benefitted massively from their youth set-up, with Tom Davies one of the latest products of their production line.

Ash Handley has been a stand-out for Leeds so far this campaign, featuring 11 times and crossing for eight tries as he has made the centre position his own.

Huddersfield Giants’ injury woes meant that young duo Jake Wardle and Olly Russell made their debut in a vital four pointer against a Widnes Vikings side that included a number of academy graduates too.

Wardle capped his first appearance with a brace of tries in the victory, while Russell was impressive in the halves in his baptism of fire, as Vikings winger Ryan Ince continued his rise through the ranks with an incredible finish in the corner.

Chris Atkin has become a Super League regular for Hull Kingston Rovers, despite only making the leap from the semi-professional ranks at the back end of last season.

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These are just some examples of young players who have been given a chance in our top division, and that can only be beneficial for our sport as a whole.

If clubs continue with the current trend we may see the end of overpaid, over the hill, overseas players being brought in, in favour of developing youth.

That isn’t a deterrent of quality players being brought to Super League, because for every Richardson we need a Ben Barba, and while his stay may be short lived it is still important that we are attracting big names to our competition.

If the balance is right, clubs will get their best young talent competing against some huge names, which will further their development and could in turn lead to the blooding of future internationals for the home nations.

My name is Sean Hayes. I am from Widnes, England. I am currently studying journalism at Salford University. Aspiring sports journalist and rugby league fanatic whether it is watching, playing or writing about the greatest game! Follow me on twitter @SHayesNBL

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