SAINTS have put further building blocks in place for the future by securing six Academy stars for another season.
Jonah Cunningham, Aaron Smith, Ben Morris, Dave Eccleston, Liam Cooper and Phil Atherton all agreed deals which will take them to the end of 2016.
Hooker Jonah has improved tremendously and is a real tough competitorDerek Traynor
Academy head coach Derek Traynor said: “All the players have shown real improvement in their time at the club and with hard work, dedication and the right attitude can continue on the pathway.
“Hooker Jonah has improved tremendously and is a real tough competitor. He is learning his trade well and is a very dedicated and determined player. He displayed that in the Academy Grand Final with a very good performance.
The rising stars demonstrate the high level of talent coming through the ranks at Langtree Park, and like Cunningham, Traynor has high hopes for the other five.
“Aaron is a quick and smart number nine who sadly missed the Grand Final due to injury. Like Jonah, he is developing well and his game sense and tactical awareness are improving all the time,” he said.
“Liam is a very strong and tough back row forward. He is perhaps the biggest hitter in defence that we have in the Academy. Alongside that, he has improved his attacking ability and he will be aiming to keep working on this part of his game.
“Ben has constantly improved his game over the last two years and that came through in the Grand Final where he put in a very good and assured display.
“He has grown in confidence especially over the last three months and that is what came through in his performance. He can play in the centre or back row.”
There is also a devastating strike force in winger Eccleston, as he proved with a try in this year’s Grand Final, while prop Atherton aims to impress next term.
“Dave is a winger who scored 14 tries in 16 appearances for us this season. He is very reliable under the high ball and as improved his game in both attack and defence over the last two years. Dave also played in the Grand Final and will be hoping to kick on again this year to hopefully play some reserve grade rugby,” explained Traynor.
“Finally, Phil is a big powerful prop who like the other five lads is developing well. But he’s also completing his apprenticeship too which isn’t easy at times.
“Phil is a great carrier of the ball who also possesses a good passing game also. He will be looking to improve again in the next 12 months and carry on his development.”