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talented rugby athletes from the university of hull

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University of Hull’s top rugby talent start 2022 with professional club debuts

Five of the University of Hull’s top rugby talents have kicked off 2022 by making debuts for professional clubs and moving to England Students.

Professional debuts from the group include Hull FC, Hull KR and Featherstone Rovers. Others have moved to England Students – an organisation made up of England’s rugby universities

The students have shared their rugby journeys so far and how the University’s Talented Athlete Programme has helped take their game to the next level.

The talented athletes and their careers so far:

Leon Stewart

Course: LLB Law
University year: 1st
Playing position: Second row, centre.

Talented rugby athlete from the university of hull
Leon Stewart

At 16, Leon was quite late to the game, but the coaches around him spotted his talent and helped him catch up and kick on with his career. Leon’s first coach at Sirius Academy in Hull recommended he play Rugby League. After starting out playing for West Hull, Leon recently made his professional debut for Hull FC where he says his heart lies. He hopes to secure a contract at the end of the season.

Leon’s recent Hull FC games have been against Bradford in a friendly and a testimonial game against Leeds Rhinos.

He said, “I can’t describe the atmosphere and the feeling of playing in that game – the crowd was cheering ­us on, it was fantastic.”

Speaking about the Talented Athlete Programme, Leon said he gets a boost from being around other students who are a part of the programme.

Richard Tate, the Player Performance Manager and Assistant Academy Coach at Hull FC, and Head Coach of England Universities Rugby League said of Leon:

Leon has been a valued member of the Hull FC Academy programme who has shown a great level of commitment and discipline towards his development both on and off the field.

Richard Tate

Alongside his time with Hull FC Academy, Leon was also successful in receiving international honours, representing England Academy U16's.

The hard work and commitment shown by Leon has been reflected in his progression in securing a Hull FC Reserves contract and making his recent first team debut. On top of that, this week Leon has made the England Universities squad for the 2022 season.

It's fantastic to see the balance between the commitments of an elite sporting environment and continuation of Leon’s academic career.

Richard also commented on Student Rugby League:

“It provides a great opportunity for players of all abilities to develop in a welcoming and inclusive environment and acts as a brilliant platform for people to try a new sport.

The structure of the sport provides an opportunity for players to receive representative honours and delivers a potential pathway into an elite Rugby League environment, for those new to the sport, or those outside of a current Academy pathway.”

Bailey Dawson

Course: BSc (Hons) Sports Coaching and Performance Science
University year: 1st
Playing position: Back Row

talented rugby athlete from the university of hull
Bailey Dawson

Bailey started playing rugby aged eight, playing rugby for Hull Dockers. He has played in both East and West Hull.

After receiving a scholarship from City of Hull Rugby, Bailey went on to join the Hull KR setup and worked his way through the ranks.

Bailey had his first team debut against Dewsbury and said it was everything he could have dreamed of.

Bailey hopes to have a long career in rugby and possibly in sports teaching.

Being part of the Talented Athlete Programme has raised my game. Being around other talented athletes pushes everyone to be the best they can, it is a really positive programme to be a part of.

Bailey Dawson

“The best part about being at the University of Hull for me is the fantastic facilities and all the financial help I have had.”

Dani Waters

Course: BSc Sport and Exercise Science
University year: 2nd
Playing position: Scrum half

talented rugby athlete from the university of hull
Dani Waters

Dani started playing rugby at 13.

“My mum wasn’t keen at first, she thought it was too physical,” she joked.

But nothing stopped Dani – by 15 she was playing rugby union for Yorkshire and then moved to rugby league with Hull FC. This put her in good stead and she secured her a place at Castleford Tigers Women (Super League). She recently signed for Featherstone Rovers.

Dani is part of Hull University’s Talented Athlete Programme, and said, “The programme has helped me stay motivated and focused on my sport. Tuesdays are really helpful with the academic side of it too.”

Dani hopes to join Kingston Rovers in the future.

Elliott Jones

Course: BSc Sports Coaching and Performance Science
University year: 3rd
Playing position: Scrum half

talented rugby athlete from the university of hull
Elliott Jones

Elliott has played rugby since he was six or seven. He started his career playing for East Hull, and then moved across to West Hull where he has been ever since. He is now part of the Rugby League Universities Northern Squad.

“Being part of the Talented Athlete Programme has been brilliant – it has helped both the physical aspect of my game through the performance zone and access to equipment, as well as providing people who can help me with my career and progression.”

This week Elliott has made the England Universities squad for the 2022 season.

Ben Bradshaw

Course: BSc Sports Coaching and Performance Science
University year: 3rd
Playing position: Prop

“Whilst at university I’ve been participating in rugby league routinely, every week,” Ben said.

“This has given me opportunities to play around the country, such as representing Yorkshire and England university teams, playing in higher national leagues, and also taking part in games against other universities.

The Talented Athlete Programme will enable me to maintain fitness during the rugby season. It will also allow me to have a fitness and training programme in place.

Ben Bradshaw

Matt Thompson, Business Development Manager (sport) at the University of Hull said:

“Having this calibre of players, and the talent we have at Hull, helps other students around them. It raises aspirations and sets a standard for everyone.

“It is exciting to think where this group of players could go – I can’t wait to watch them kick on even further in future years.

“Rugby league has always been a strength for us at the University. Over the years we have seen a lot of talent come from Hull, and go on to play at professional level. We have had 3 or 4 getting to play for England Students before.”

This week Ben has made the England Universities squad for the 2022 season.

The Talented Athlete Programme application for the next academic term is now open.

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