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Sam Wood tucks in to job as a Bradford Bulls pro
Sam Wood looked at home as he munched on a plate of chicken and pasta at Odsal last week.
The Bulls’ first-team squad were dining together in between training sessions and Wood chatted happily to his new team-mates, some of whom are over ten years his senior.
“I was nervous at first but I’ve started to get to know all the lads and am really enjoying it now,” said Wood, an 18-year-old centre from Halifax.
“I’ve learnt all the lads’ names and nicknames, so it’s all good.
“I’ve known Oliver Roberts for quite a while anyway through Siddal, our local amateur club, and Curtis Naughton through the Bulls Academy.
“Most of the other players in the squad are grown men, so it’s good to be able to relate to lads your own age.
“The training has been tough and my body is sore – very sore – but I’m looking forward to everything that goes with being in the first-team squad.”
The carrot for Wood, of course, and indeed Roberts and Naughton, is a potential Super League career.
All three teenagers were handed full-time professional contracts last month and with it a chance to stake their claim for stardom.
Wood was awarded a two-year deal after impressing in the Academy and Under-20s side last season.
“I was absolutely delighted,” he said.
“I was at sixth form at Hipperholme and Lightcliffe High School, where I finished my BTEC Sports Diploma.
I got Distinction, Merit, Merit and it’s good to have an education behind you.
“I then went straight into working in a factory called Renson Products in Halifax.
“I was just fitting stuff together and it wasn’t the most glamorous job or the best hours.
“I was only there for a few weeks and then got the call saying the Bulls wanted to take me on full-time.”
Head of youth development Paul Medley reckons Wood could play a game or two on the wing in Super League in 2013 but says none of the three youngsters’ development would be rushed.
After the Rugby Football League decided to scrap the Under-18s Academy and Under-20s Valvoline Cup competitions, Wood, Naughton and Roberts will all feature in the new Under-19s this season.
Medley feels the lean and rangy Wood, a left-sided centre, may not fully develop physically for another two or three years.
“I made about seven or eight appearances for the Under-20s last season and thoroughly enjoyed it,” explained Wood, who joined the Bulls from Siddal along with Roberts, Adam O’Brien and Jobe Murphy.
“At the start of the season I struggled with the 20s, if I’m honest. Then I found a bit of confidence in myself after going down to 18s and I felt better when playing for the 20s again.
“I’ll be mainly playing in the Under-19s this season but training with the first-team squad.
“I’m learning a lot from the likes of Jamie Foster and Keith Lulia. Brett Kearney has helped me out a lot too.
“It’s just about taking that into the Under-19s and then hopefully I’ll get my shot in the first-team one day.
“Will Super League be a step too far this season? Maybe so, but Tom Clough (head of strength and conditioning) is spending a lot of time with Curtis, Ollie and me.
“I worked with Tom in the Academy and this will be my third or fourth year with him.
“We’ve got a good relationship going – he knows what he wants from me and vice versa.
“Hopefully Tom can put some size on us and our skill levels will pick up too by being around the first-team lads.”
Wood speaks with a maturity beyond his tender years and it is hoped that he, Roberts and Naughton will eventually make the first-team breakthrough.
“It’s a small squad, and I have thought about possibly playing for the first-team this year, but Francis Cummins knows what he’s doing,” said Wood.
“I’m there to put my winger away for a try or score a try myself. I’m here to push for Super League – that’s definitely my main target.
“We’ve got some good players, so it will be good to see what we can do this year.”