Teenage recruits ready for another volcanic challenge at Bradford Bulls (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Teenage recruits ready for another volcanic challenge at Bradford Bulls
Keeping the Bulls in Super League has been described as a mountainous task, but new recruits Jordan Baldwinson and Mason Tonks have grown accustomed to uphill challenges.
A gruelling pre-season at New Zealand Warriors saw the 19-year-old prospects running up volcanoes.
It was an experience they are unlikely to forget in a hurry.
“Pre-season was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” said Baldwinson, who hails from south Leeds.
“Honestly, it was such a challenge and it has made me so much fitter and more athletic.
“We had to sprint up a volcano and you then had to hold your breath.
“There is a 50-metre gap, so you’re sprinting up this hill and you can’t breathe because everyone is watching you!
“But you get a 10-metre slot where you can breathe and bear in mind this volcano goes on for ages and ages.
“We had to do it about eight times, so some lads were nearly collapsing. It was a crazy experience but one that will benefit me, definitely.”
Listening to Baldwinson and Tonks recount their experiences in Auckland, it is clear that their eight-month stay will benefit them as they seek to make their mark at Bradford.
It did not quite work out as planned but the imposing forwards, who came through the ranks together at Headingley, are highly regarded and will rejoin Leeds on three-year deals from next season.
Tonks, a Castleford lad, said: “I played three under-20s games for the Warriors and it was a good experience for me out there.
“Everyone out there was so big, fast and athletic and it’s really been an eye-opener for me and made me up my game.
“The enthusiasm over there is incredible and everyone seems to play rugby league.
“I was probably the lightest guy in the team. There were props and second rowers who were 130 kilos at 19 and younger.
“It was hard for me to manage that weight-wise as I had been one of the bigger guys in England, but they’re just a different breed over there.”
The teenagers, who lived together in Auckland, enjoyed the coaching of former Bradford boss Matthew Elliott and training alongside the Warriors’ first-team stars.
Tonks added: “We trained with guys who have played Origin such as Jacob Lillyman, and the New Zealand captain Simon Mannering.
“Their personality rubs off on you and makes you want to work hard and do really well. I feel 100 per cent ready to play Super League now.”
Baldwinson, a boyhood Rhinos fan who made two Super League appearances for his hometown club last season, has one eye on filling the boots of Kylie Leuluai and Jamie Peacock at Headingley in the not-too-distant future.
He said: “JP is still playing really well but Leluai has only got this year until his contract expires.
“It’s nice to know that as they are getting a bit older we might be able to take their spots.
“I’ve always lived in Leeds and wanted to play for them since I was a little boy.
“I’ve still got that dream of wanting to play for them but for the time being I’m with Bradford and want to do well for them.”
Tonks, an attacking second-rower who has yet to make his Super League debut, said his close friendship with Baldwinson helped them both in New Zealand.
He said: “He’s a good lad but he doesn’t wash up after himself!
“Jordan has looked after me and I’ve looked after him but it’s been really good to see my family after a long eight months.”
Tonks’ surname is a familiar one in rugby league circles but he said: “I’m not related to any of the other Tonks’ unfortunately.
“But hopefully in a couple of years’ time I might be able to put my own name in the rugby league history books.”
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