Tony Smith has been good to his word and has started giving youth a chance at Headingley. This season we've seen; Nick Scruton, Lee Smith, Danny Williams, Carl Ablett, Ian Kirke and Jordan Tansey all get game time in Blue and Amber. Scruton and Smith had made their breakthrough in Superleague X, but are becoming established fixtures this year.|
For me, Ian Kirke has been the revelation. Although one of the more senior 'juniors' at twenty-five, Kirke has hit the first team at full speed. He impressed in the pre-season friendlies but since his try scoring debut against Castleford he has played in three games running. Gentle reminders of a young Adrian Morley make me think that he could well be on the verge of establishing himself in the first team for a long stint, and he should cause Mark O'Neill some concerns over whether he'll walk straight back into the side when he recovers from his injury.
Danny Williams took his chance in the loss against Saints, but scored a try on his debut, and had one disallowed for a marginal offside. He has pace to burn, and could be a future replacement for the now troubled Wigan winger Mark Calderwood. There is no denying his step, skill and speed with the ball and some work tightening up his defence will see him pushing Lee Smith all the way for first team football.
Jordan Tansey perhaps has the hardest of tasks as he tries to break into the Rhinos half back position currently occupied by McGuire and Burrow. Jordan got his opportunity is Perpignan an made it count with a try on his debut, albeit a gift behind the try line from Rob Burrow. He has the enthusiasm, but will only benefit if we are unfortunate enough to sustain injuries to either of the incumbents. Fingers crossed he plays a cameo role!
What is clear is that the Rhinos academy is once again starting to graduate with honours. The system which brought us; Sinfield, Walker, Bailey, McGuire, Burrow, Diskin and Mathers is once again proving its worth.