The Leeds Rhinos Academy is known for producing some incredible talent, most notably the golden generation. Ash Handley, Harry Newman and Mikolaj Oledzki are three current stars who have come through the ranks at Headingley to gain international recognition, and the conveyor belt of talent continues with the likes of Morgan Gannon, Liam Tindall and Jack Sinfield breaking through more recently.
There is no question Leeds are searching for that next golden generation and the foundations are starting to be put in place for that to happen. Sinfield will look to follow his father and be at the head of the upcoming generation, but much like Kevin he will need some talent to follow him into the first team from a young age if they are to be successful.
So, with the above in mind, we have studied the Rhinos Academy side at present and noted down three names who could be running out with the first team at Headingley soon and for many years to come.
Neil is a Leeds-born winger who is 17 years of age. He has been a prolific try scorer at the Academy level, crossing the whitewash 10 times in just nine games this campaign – including a haul of four against Wakefield Trinity at the start of June. He also stands an impressive figure, coming in at just under two metres tall, which is a contributing factor to his sensational acceleration and ability to bring the ball out of his own end with conviction. Tchamambe is also no stranger to length-of-the-field tries and is the first man the team looks towards on a break. His frame also makes him a target for kicks on the final play towards the corner.
In terms of the first team, it might be a waiting game for the towering winger with Ash Handley, David Fusitu’a and Liam Tindall all having played well this season and well ahead in the pecking order at this stage. However, the injury records that hamper some of the players who play on the flanks in Rohan Smith’s squad may provide Neil with his chance in the first team sooner rather than later.
Another Yorkshireman, although born in Tiger territory, Riley is another 17-year-old prospect, who dons the number one jersey on a regular basis for the Academy. As fullbacks do, he pops up with a try, on average, every couple of games, and has also shown to be a reliable kicker from the tee, having stepped up multiple times throughout the season to kick goals at a high success rate. His 6’1’’ height also makes him an impending figure in attack and defence and contributes to his safe hands when contending with high balls.
The fullback position is one of the most debated amongst the senior squad at present, with several players going for the spot. Out of the three main contenders, Jack Walker is the only out and out fullback, with Zak Hardaker finding a home at centre and Richie Myler comfortable in the halves. Lumb himself is versatile enough to play on the wing, which can only do him favours going forward. The situation may go one way or another, as Walker seems to be thoroughly enjoying his time on loan at Hull, but either way Lumb’s consistent performances at the Academy level won’t have gone unnoticed in the upper echelons of the club.
The final member of this talented trio is halfback Kai Morgan. Kai is the oldest mentioned player, having turned 18 on the final day of April. He incorporates two of the mentioned skills of the prior two players, averaging a try every couple of games, and being a more regular goal-kicker for the Academy. Kai’s also the shortest player of the three, at just 5’10’’. However, as us Leeds fans know, you can’t define a half on height. Morgan’s incisive ability to put forth natural kicks and find the passes many at the level only speculate make him very much a player to watch.
Fellow halfback and Academy starlet Jack Sinfield is already getting a taste of first team action, which can only be a positive for Morgan. Moving forward, a Sinfield-Morgan partnership being trialled at a higher level than Academy RL wouldn’t surprise me, as both have all the attributes to make it at the top level for many years to come.
So, those are the three I’ve picked to keep an eye on – but the plethora of talent in the Academy means any other player could have featured in this list. All the best to the Academy squad for the remainder of their campaign.