Castleford Tigers’ latest youth development product to step forward to first team duty has spoken of his delight at making his Super League debut against London Broncos.
Prop forward Dan Fleming, who won last year’s under 20s 2012 most improved player award along with a first team contract, went full-time under head coach Ian Millward in the pre-season and was excited to make his senior debut for the Tigers at the Wish Communications Stadium.
He said: “I really enjoyed it – I couldn’t believe how loud the crowd was when the announcer said my name.
“I was really chuffed with it and couldn’t have asked for a better reception.
“It was unbelievable to play alongside my team-mates. I’ve always wanted to play Super League and sharing that day with this set of lads was unreal.
“My family are very proud. No doubt my mum and dad, who were at the ground, would have both been shouting. They were all ringing me up after the game and telling me how well I’d done.”
Fleming’s day started well as he was awarded his debut number 22 shirt before the game by former Castleford and Great Britain star Lee Crooks.
He said: “He’s a legend down here so that was a surreal moment; to stand up in front of the lads and receive a round of applause, it was a bit weird! Before the game, I couldn’t have wished for anything else.”
Fleming has already made his international debut, having featured for the Welsh National side, for who he qualifies through his grandma, scoring a try when he featured in their loss against England in the Autumn International series in 2012. He now wants to push on and feature for the Tigers regularly.
He added: “It’s a massive learning curve. It’s a massive change from the last game that I played in the Championship to the Super League – it’s a lot faster.
“Hopefully I’ll get another chance to show what I can do. I want to keep going, keep progressing and keep learning.”
In recent years the Tigers have put a large emphasis into their youth recruitment drive, put in place by head of youth and current Interim CEO Steve Gill and player performance manager Richard Tunningley.
Along with the department staff, they have seen continued results of the system as the club approaches 50 per cent of its first team squad being products of its “homegrown” system.
In all, 13 of the Tigers’ 25-man playing squad are the result of the club’s scholarship, academy and reserve grade sides and with further players out on dual-registration with Championship clubs the structure still looks to further its rewards and promise.
Along with Fleming, Castleford can boast further homegrown players in Richard Owen, Michael Shenton, Jonathan Walker, Daryl Clark, Craig Huby, Adam Milner, Nathan Massey, Oliver Holmes, Jordan Thompson, Ben Johnston, James Clare and Charlie Martin, who has been 18th man but is yet to make debut and is currently on dual-registration at Keighley Cougars.