Five Young Stars Sign Contract Extensions at FC

Hull FC are pleased to announce contract extensions for five of their young stars, who will all be part of the first-team squad for the 2023 Betfred Super League season.

Harvey Barron, Will Gardiner, Matty Laidlaw, Lewis Martin, and Manoa Wacokecoke have all committed their future to the club.

All products of the club’s ever-growing Centre of Excellence programme, the quintet are the latest players to commit their future to the club ahead of the 2023 Betfred Super League season under the guidance of new head coach Tony Smith.

Having been part of the Rising Stars group in 2022, which features Academy and Reserves players who are called up to train with the first-team squad, Barron, Gardiner, and Laidlaw all made their first-team debuts last season and all enjoyed successful spells on the field, while Martin and Wacokecoke were key cogs in the Academy side which reached the semi-finals of the U18s competition.

Laidlaw, Martin, and Wacokecoke were just three of eight Academy players who were called up to represent the Yorkshire Academy side in their Origin series against Lancashire across the summer, further emphasizing the success of Hull’s youth sides.

Matty Laidlaw was arguably the Black & Whites’ breakout star in 2022; having made a remarkable debut in the Hull Derby victory at the Magic Weekend, the prop, who was also crowned the Hull FC Academy Player of the Year for his efforts with the U18s, made eight appearances off the bench, cementing his place in the side in the final stages of the campaign.

After a spell on loan at Whitehaven earlier in the season, Barron also became one of several young players to make his first senior appearance during the last campaign. The pacey winger, who made four appearances, touched down on debut against Toulouse in the South of France before bagging a brace against the French outfit at the MKM Stadium less than a month later.

It is perhaps Will Gardiner who had the most dramatic rise of 2022, though; the Reserves prop, who had represented amateur side West Hull ARLFC earlier in the season, give up his day job as a plumber to make the step-up to the Airlie Birds’ first-team from the club’s Reserves ranks. He was called up to senior duty for the club’s away trip to Salford before touching down for a memorable try on his home debut three days later against Toulouse.

While exciting outside-back Lewis Martin is yet to make his first senior appearance, the youngster certainly made his mark across both the first-team, academy, and reserves ranks. The 18-year-old was part of the Rising Stars group that trained with the senior squad throughout the year and was a regular try-scorer across both the U18s and U19s sides.

Manoa Wacokecoke will further look to bolster the Black & Whites ranks of wingers in 2023 after an impressive season as a mainstay in Michael Shenton’s academy side. The former Cottingham Tigers youngster, who is of Fijian heritage, brings some power to Hull’s flanks and is keen to battle for position alongside fellow outside backs Barron and Martin.

The five young stars join the likes of Charlie Severs, Davy Litten, and Denive Balmforth, who have already put pen to paper on first-team deals ahead of the 2023 season, with the club’s youth programme starting to bear fruits after its inception in 2021.

Hull FC Head Coach, Tony Smith, said: “Junior development is equally as important for each and every club, but ours in particular because it gives the club a connection with those that play for the team and everybody in the city, especially those young people with aspirations to play for our club one day,” he explained.

“I think it’s vitally important for young people who have supported the club through their childhood to look up to others from the city who have built successful careers.

“It doesn’t matter what age somebody is if they are physically and mentally well-developed enough to play.

“Youth development is part of a clear focus at our club which has made great strides in recent times and I am looking forward to helping continue, starting with this group of younger players who will have a key role to play in our first-team environment.”

Meanwhile, the club have confirmed that youngsters Jacob Hookem, Marcus Walker and Aiden Burrell have left the club.

Everyone at Hull FC would like to wish the trio the best of luck in their future endeavours.