CASTLEFORD Tigers have given full time contracts to academy starlets James Clare, Ben Johnson and Charlie Martin.
Winger Clare, 20, and scrum-half Johnson, 19, will begin full time training when the first team commence pre-season next month while 18-year-old prop Martin will continue in the club’s near full time AASE group until May in order to complete his education before linking up full time with the first team.
New head coach Ian Millward has studied DVDs of the trio and believes they have what it takes to follow in the footsteps of the 12 home grown players since 2007 that have made their Super League debuts with the club having come through the Tigers academy system.
“The club have made big statements with youth in recent years and it is obvious the club is under pinned by youth development,” said Millward.
“Obviously these guys have been identified by head of youth Steve Gill and our performance department as players that have got the ability to progress and play a part in the future of the club.
“James has height - a winger needs to have height in the modern game – he also has natural speed which is a great asset and something he’ll be able to use in the coming years hopefully.
“Ben is also a player that has got speed, he’s still young physically in a project sense, but he has definitely got talent and he’s a player that has been identified for the future.
“Charlie is a young forward; I don’t think he will be pigeon-holed as a front-rower. I think the modern forward has to be a bit more multi-skilled and also be flexible. I think he’s got that potential. Size can come into it, it’s an area we can target and he certainly ticks that box. He is also very strong in collision.
“They are three very promising players, the fans should feel very happy that they’ve signed and it just re-enforces that there’s young talent here and they’ll get their opportunity.”
Steve Hill, Castleford’s head of youth development, is delighted to see three more juniors climb the ladder towards playing Super League.
He said: “It is really pleasing and a real shot in the arm for all the hard work that the junior clubs do in the Castleford and District area. I really can’t thank them enough.
“It is amazing how far these three lads have come in such a short space of time, with James and Ben both having been signed from the Lock Lane club at 18 years of age, and Charlie as a 17 year old also having played his early rugby league at Lock Lane.
“It is great credit to our coaches at junior level. Gary Thornton and his assistants Gary Burnett and Chris Chapman have done sterling work developing James and Ben, while Richard Tunningley, Danny Orr and Steve Ellicker have brought Charlie on a pace with the AASE group this year.
“All three of the youngsters met Ian on Wednesday and he had some very inspirational words for them.
“In some ways for these youngsters the reward will be even sweeter, as initially all three were overlooked at 16 year olds, only to prove if you believe in yourself and continue to strive for your goals then you can be rewarded, all three of the youngsters have a great passion in pulling on the black and amber shirt and I look forward to seeing them progress with Ian’s coaching.”