Not many players make their Super League debut while still in the first year of academy rugby.
But that was exactly what rising St Helens starlet Jack Welsby did last season against Hull FC, aged just 17.
A memorable rookie year was then capped off by playing a key role in England Academy’s 2-0 series win over the Australian Schoolboys, scoring twice in the decisive second game.
Saints coach Justin Holbrook handed Welsby the no.29 shirt for this year – and has been delighted by his progress to date.
“He was fantastic for England Academy, it was great to watch,” Holbrook said.
“I watched when Lancashire played the Aussie Schoolboys and then the two tests, and thought the whole England side played really well. But in particular Jack, he did some special things and played a big part in winning the second game.
“He’s a great young player – he had a taste of the first team last year with one game off the bench, and he’s an exciting player for the future. He loves playing, he’s fast, skilful and tough.
“He’s an exciting player and equally as good at six or one, position wise. I think he’ll grow into a good build over the next few years.
“He’s only young – it was only his first year of academy last year and he dominated. That’s always a great sign when you can be that good that young.
“I know he’ll be knocking on the door of the first team early on, he’s been training great through pre-season.”
Holbrook has refused, however, to place any undue pressure on the teenager’s shoulders for 2019.
The coach added: “There are some good players here and he is only young at 18.
“I’m not sure what this season will bring, but I’d have no hesitation in playing him. Whatever you ask of him he does and does well.
“If he plays, 10/15 games then that’s great, if he doesn’t, then that’s fine because he’s still young. I don’t want to put any kind of predictions on him for that, but we love having him at the club.”
Club: St Helens
Amateur clubs: Shevington Sharks, Blackbrook Royals
First team appearances: 1
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