The future of rugby league is here, and it’s another success story for the Salford Red Devils Foundation, the charitable and community arm of Salford Red Devils.
Two young players from Walkden and Irlam have this week been snapped up on two-year deals with the Super League club.
Salford’s top youth coaches have had their eye on Ben Moseley and Jack Ratcliffe for a while.
Rugby league reporting: SalfordOnline.com ready to roar with Salford Red Devils Foundation link-up
Both excelled in the Foundation’s two feeder programmes – Embed the Pathway, and Rising Stars, which invite hundreds of potential sporting stars a year from across Salford, Trafford and Greater Manchester to practice and learn skills with the top coaches in the game.
Walkden High School winger Ben only began playing rugby in Year 7 but has impressed with his searing pace and ball-handling skills.
The 16-year-old has been competing in athletics for Sale Harriers since the tender age of 9, running in the 60 and 200 metres and contesting the triple jump and long jump, before getting to a personal best of 11.67s for the 100 metres this year.
He was also converted to league from cousin code rugby union and rejected other offers to sign terms with Salford Red Devils.
Ben’s success is emblematic of the link-up the Foundation has with his high school – specialist coaches have been developing Walkden High School’s rugby league offering with the ‘Sky Try’ programme, which encourages kids to take up the sport.
Walkden High School PE teacher Andy Tobutt said: “We are absolutely delighted to hear of Ben’s achievement and he is fully deserving of this opportunity to develop his game and improve further.
“It just goes to show his talent and what a special player he is. His dedication to the sport in the past five years has been exceptional. It is no more than he deserves. The local boy done good!”
Outside back Jack Ratcliffe has been in stunning form for Salford City Roosters and has come through the club’s system since the age of 12.
Roosters Head coach Chris Irwin told SalfordOnline.com: “It was really when Salford came knocking that spurred his interest further.
“Jack started out in the Under 12s as a top quality footballer, he was playing with Salford Boys, captain at Irlam and Cadishead College and was getting trials with various clubs.
“But he played rugby league and loved it, and he was getting the feedback that he’s very good at the game.
“It’s his awareness of space really, he’s the perfect full-back because when he receives the ball he can identify and exploit that space.
“Overall he’s just a very good athlete and he’s very coachable, if you tell him something once, he’s using it in the next game.
“There’s not an ounce of arrogance in him and he always wants to learn.
“There were a couple of times we thought we may lose him to football, but it was really the interest of Salford Red Devils, both the club and the Foundation, that motivated him to continue with league.
“Widnes showed a lot of interest in Jack, but he picked Salford for the quality of youth coaching and the opportunities it’s giving kids from this city.”
And the Foundation’s success?
Irwin said: “A lot of it is to do with the work of [Player Development Manager] Danny Barton over the past three or four years.
“He’s put a much stronger focus on developing local talent which has had a massive effect on the aspiration of young players – time was, if you were a special player, you’d go through the ranks and they head off to Wigan or St Helens – now the same players are coming to Salford.”
Forward Oreofe Animashavu of Salford City Roosters also signs a two-year deal wtih Salford Red Devils this week.
The powerful loose forward has been called “unstoppable at times” by coach Chris Irwin, and with good reason.
Oreofe came over to Salford City Roosters from Wright Robinson High School in Gorton.
So what’s so special about him?
“He’s our top try scorer, for one,” says Chris.
“He’s about 6ft now and very athletic looking with very powerful legs, he’s a big strong boy and we think he’ll be a bit of a beast in future.
“In my opnion Oreofe is one of best young forwards in the game right now.
“He’s got lots of natural potential and given the right environment could easily go on to greater things.
“Again, Warrington were very interested in him, but he chose Salford Red Devils to develop his rugby league career.”
Main image: Ben Moseley