Andy Kelly was delighted with how the Giants’ young prospects performed in Luke Robinson’s testimonial against Bradford Bulls.
Kelly, the club’s Head of Youth Performance, noted how Kruise Leeming, at 21, was the oldest Giants player on the pitch in the closing quarter of the game, which the Giants won 28-10.
Not only did Kelly feel they performed well on the pitch, but he was impressed with how his crop of youngsters handled themselves around the occasion.
“I was very proud and I thought the way they represented themselves, not only when they got on the field but around the dressing room before and after, they showed a good understanding of what we expect from their behaviours,” said Kelly,
“They showed a good understanding about what is expected of a professional player in a higher environment, so we were pleased with that and we were pleased with how they represented themselves in the game – and certainly afterwards when they were faced with a little bit of attention, they handled that well.
“I just thought, physically, they were at the level they needed to be at, they are not seasoned professionals, they are 17 to 19-year-old lads who physically represented themselves and looked the part.
“A number of the first team players, when they were coming off the field to be replaced or playing alongside the academy lads, were very complimentary about them.”
Seb Ikahihifo scored two tries, as did Oliver Roberts, with the other coming from Jared Simpson. Danny Brough, Ryan Brierley and Izaac Farrell did the kicking.
Kelly added: “Izaac got his first points in a senior environment and again he did very well, carried the ball a couple of times and showed some good evasive skill – and his decision making was where he needed to be.
“So too was that of Josh Pinder, who is at the other end of that scale – he is just starting life with us and as a first-year academy player that must have been quite daunting, but he took it in his stride.
“I thought a couple of the middles – Matty English, Jon-Luke Kirby, Sam Hewitt and Billy Hayes – stood up physically, but Billy and Matty had some nice interchanges as well that nearly brought a try for Matty.
“Again, they showed a capability to compete with the older, more senior players.”
Kelly is intent on providing ready-made homegrown players for Rick Stone’s senior Super League squad this season.
“I hope more lads get the chance to make their Super League debut this year,” added Kelly.
“I know we went outside the club on a number of occasions to strengthen and carry us through to ultimately avoid that million pound game, which we did, but when we talk about building up the confidence of the first-team coaches to go back to the academy and select people to do a job, hopefully that will be what they remember when they look for players outside the initial squad.”
Bradford provided a stern test, and another will come on Saturday when the Giants face Workington at the John Smith’s Stadium (3.00).
Kelly’s youngsters played a trial match against Wakefield last Saturday, before getting more action the following day against Bradford, and he added: ““From the friendly on Saturday against Wakefield I was really pleased with how the boys shaped up, took it very seriously, I think both sides did, but we showed a good level of condition and fitness and I thought we were very physical at times – so the players had an appetite for the game.
“They have trained long and hard and I think it has possibly been tougher than they are used to, so we are pleased that we got an outlet for all that energy and I think it gave them a renewed enthusiasm for training.
“It was a good outcome, albeit a pre-season friendly.
“Without really putting down the opposition, both sides lacked the senior players because they were doubling up on the Sunday game, but I think there will be tougher tests throughout the year.”
Leeds are preparing for a court battle with former player James Segeyaro after chief executive Gary Hetherington dismissed a claim that he is a free agent.
The Rhinos are demanding a £250,000 transfer fee for the former Penrith hooker after he walked out on them with two years left on his contract.
Segeyaro’s manager Sam Ayoub has told Australian media that the contract was not valid amid rumours the player is close to agreeing a move to NRL champions Cronulla for 2017.
Geoff Toovey will take control of Bradford Bulls this week, after completing his move from Australia. Toovey’s previous coaching position was with Manly Sea Eagles in the NRL.
Castleford Tigers’ new signing Tuoyo Egodo will spend the 2017 season on loan to Kingstone Press Championship club Oldham.