Newcastle Falcons have added three school players to the Senior Academy for next season.
Gosforth Academy duo Joe Craggs and Dan Marshall will receive full time contracts, as will Austin Friarsâ€™ Brett Connon.
Craggs, a number 8 by trade, is an England U18 international and has played for both Newcastle Falcons U18 and Newcastle Falcons A this season, scoring on his A league debut.
Speaking of his A team experience, Craggs said:
â€œPlaying for the A Team this season was really helpfully and gave me direction towards where Iâ€™m going. The first game I played in was quite a big step up so you have to put a lot of focus on yourself and on what the team is doing, and just make sure youâ€™re doing your job right.â€
Speaking on the decision to reward Craggs, Newcastle Falcons Academy Manager Mark Laycock said:
â€œJoe is a talented back row who has featured in all of our Under 18s Academy game this season and done really well. As his try for England shows heâ€™s also on a bit of form at the moment too.”
â€œJoe is a good example of how the AASE Scheme can really help players push on. He was a very skilful player when he joined the scheme but the physical development and maturity that have come through living away from home and training like a professional have pushed him forward so much, and the value added by the AASE scheme has been massive.â€
Marshall, who can play as a wing or a full back, was part of the Newcastle Falcons squad in the summerâ€™s Premiership 7s series, where he appeared at the Twickenham Stoop on the finals evening.
Speaking after the Academy contract was confirmed, Marshall said:
“Iâ€™ve been a supporter and coming to the games since I was really little. I live in Kingston Park, so itâ€™s an honour to have worked my way through and have a chance to play out on that pitch.â€
â€œI started with football when I was little and played rugby alongside that, but it came to a point when I had to chose one of the other, which with the help of my dad I went the way of rugby, which has obviously paid dividends in terms of where I am sat today.â€
â€œHopefully I can be involved in the A team next season and maybe the sevens again but just to be involved more closely with the club and learning from players in my position like Sinoti or Alex will hopefully rub off on me and give me the chance to progress as a player.â€
Academy Manager Mark Laycock said:
â€œDan is an extremely talented player and a particularly brave defender. He is only 17 but is already starting to show what he can do and that last minute try in the semi final backs up a quality last minute kick in last yearâ€™s final that won the AASE competition for Gosforth.â€
â€œHe has begun to feature for Tynedaleâ€™s first team and while he does have work to do until he is the finished article, but there is a lot of potential to be unlocked and Iâ€™m looking forward to seeing him progress.”
Connon, like Craggs, has featured in the A league as well as the U18 league. The Austin Friars fly half has also represented Ireland U19.
Connon spoke of his experience in the A League, saying:
â€œIâ€™ve been lucky enough to play a part in some of the A League games, which has been great. It was pretty surreal at first because youâ€™re playing with international players and players youâ€™ve looked up to. Itâ€™s not something I expected this soon but itâ€™s nice to be trusted with game time and when youâ€™re offered that opportunity you have to take it.â€
â€œNext year Iâ€™ll hopefully be involved with some A League fixtures and Iâ€™ll take whatever chances I can get with the Falcons throughout the season. Iâ€™m hoping to be able to get plenty of game time for my dual registered club as well which is Tynedale at the minute.â€
Speaking on Connonâ€™s signing, Academy Manager Mark Laycock said:
â€œBrett is a very talented footballer and a good goal kicker. Heâ€™s done really well this year to be studying towards his A Levels while continuing to play week in week out at National League One level with Tynedale and thatâ€™s a testament to his dedication to the game.â€
â€œBrett came to us through the Cumbrian county system, following in the footsteps of players like Mark Wilson, and is another example of the type of rugby talent that can be found to the Western side of our catchment area. Weâ€™re looking forward to welcoming him into the Senior Academy this summer although at the moment heâ€™s away with Ireland Under 19s and we all wish him well with that. â€œ