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Paul Medley chuffed as five Bulls named in England Academy squad
Paul Medley has spoken of his delight after five Bulls youngsters were named in the England Academy squad for the 2013 campaign.
Curtis Naughton and Oliver Roberts, who along with Sam Wood were recently promoted into Francis Cummins’ first-team squad, are joined in the 24-man group by back-rower Alex Mellor, hooker Nathan Conroy and centre Josh Casey.
Wood is ineligible as he is a year older than the others but Medley feels the handful of inclusions illustrates the progress being made in the club’s youth ranks at a difficult time.
The Bulls’ Academy side enjoyed a highly successful 2012 campaign, despite the ongoing backdrop of uncertainty around the club’s future and slide into administration.
Head of youth development Medley said: “All the players selected performed superbly last season and didn't let the club's off-field problems affect their performances.
“They have been rewarded for a fine season and I'm delighted for them all.”
Full back Naughton and back-rower Roberts train on a daily basis with the first-team squad, while Casey, Conroy and Mellor are also rated highly at the club.
Bulls forward John Bateman captained the England Academy side in matches against France and their tour of Australia earlier this year.
The 19-year-old, tipped as a future Bulls skipper, will now look to push into the second-tier England Knights side this coming season.
The Knights, for whom Bulls scrum half Luke Gale has become a regular, are seen as the natural progression into the senior side.
England Academy coach Dave Elliott said: “We learnt a lot about our players during the 2012 season, with both age groups playing tough games against France and the Academy getting the experience of touring in Australia, and I’m looking forward to continuing that progression and helping these young players further develop in 2013.
“The big thing for us is to see how these players cope in an England environment having performed well for their clubs during the season.
“There is a direct pathway to the England senior side and these lads can see clearly the steps they need to take to progress towards Steve McNamara’s squad.
“We’re working hard to try and give the players the tools to better themselves and best prepare them to make that step up through the ranks.”
* England internationals Sam Tomkins and Kevin Sinfield have been nominated for the 2012 Golden Boot.
Wigan full back Tomkins won the 2012 Man of Steel award and became England’s record try-scorer, while Sinfield captained Leeds to a sixth Grand Final triumph and led England to victory in the autumn international series.
The last British winner of the most prestigious individual award in rugby league was former Wigan and England captain Andrew Farrell in 2004.
Others shortlisted for the award, which will be announced on January 4, are Australia captain Cameron Smith, his Melbourne Storm team-mate Cooper Cronk, Canterbury full back Ben Barba and Gold Coast forward Nate Myles.