Huddersfield Giants’ vastly-experienced Head of Youth Development Andy Kelly has tipped teenager Liam Johnson as a Super League star of the future.
The 17-year-old former Newsome Panthers junior has had an outstanding season in the Under 19s Academy and has been promoted to the full Giants Super League squad for 2015.
Kelly admits the back-row forward’s progress has taken everyone at the club by surprise.
But having already captain England at Youth level, former Wakefield Super League coach Kelly always knew Johnson had the potential.
“I think Liam Johnson’s rise to prominence has been astounding,” said Kelly.
“He’s come from the England Youth set-up, signed at the Giants and, within months of signing an Academy contract, he’s signed to be part of the first-team squad for next year.
“He must be a little bit surprised himself that his success is coming as quickly as it has.
“One of the great things about Liam was that as soon as he on signed his first-team contract he acknowledged that this was where the hard work starts.
“He’s under no illusion that he’s at the top of the tree, he’s just at the roots of another one as it starts to grow. He’s another player with a bright future and could go all the way as far as the Giants are concerned.”
Johnson was one of the tryscorers in the Giants’ 28-8 Academy defeat at leaders Warrington the last time out. Super League squad man Jake Connor added the other.
Coach Chris Thorman’s side now head into a weekend off, but still have their sets firmly set on a play-off spot.
And Kelly knows that’s down to the strong work ethic – as well as the quality of the players – within the group.
“I think the spirit of the 19s team has been a highlight,” added Kelly.
“Chris Thorman has managed that really well with the assistance of Stuart Fielden earlier in the year. I think generally, as a body, they’ve worked hard for each other and the sort of community spirit within the Academy team is quite strong.
“Another great thing about the Academy this year are the players it’s producing for the first team, and Jake Connor is one of those players who is now breaking into first-team football.
“He’s deserved it over the season. He’s worked really hard and, from what I’ve seen, he’s another with the potential to have a bright future ahead of him.“