Bradford Bulls today snagged one of the hottest young properties in rugby after completing a move for Wakefield starlet Cain Southernwood.
The precociously talented 17-year-old has signed on at Odsal until the end of 2013, with full back Kieran Hyde heading in the opposite direction as part of the deal.
A stand-out performer for the Wildcats’ all-conquering academy side last season, Southernwood won man of the match honours while leading them to Grand Final glory.
He was rewarded with a first-team squad number at the start of the current campaign but has yet to make his Super League debut – something he is intent on changing in the near future.
He said: “I’m very happy to be at such a big club and I’m happy to be working with the coaches here. I can’t wait to get started.
“I wasn’t that happy with my old club so I just thought I needed a change.
“This is perfect because it’s a big club and there’s a lot of people I know here, who I get on with from England internationals as a youth.
“Obviously I want to play in the first team, whether it’s Challenge Cup or Super League, whatever. I just want to earn a first-team slot, work for my place and work hard.”
Southernwood will mainly feature for the Bulls’ under-20s this season and is expected to make his debut for Stuart Barrow’s side against Leeds tomorrow.
But the England Academy international will train full-time with the first-team squad, working particularly closely with experienced scrum half Matt Orford.
The Aussie star is expected to help mentor Southernwood, ideally with a view to grooming him as a potential successor at pivot.
“I think Steve McNamara is happy when he’s seen me playing for the 20s and has confidence in my ability to push on here,” said Southernwood.
“He’s going to help me and he said Matt Orford is going to have a lot of input, so it’s going to be good for me, especially if I can get that shot.
“He’s an established world-class scrum half and if I can learn off him, I should be pushing into the first team.”
The signing fills a need for Bulls boss Steve McNamara, who had identified the halves as an area for improvement.
Outside the current first-team squad, Danny Addy provided the only specialist cover prior to Southernwood’s signing.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” said McNamara. “When the opportunity arose to try and get him, we needed to grab it with both hands.
“He’s a super talent and has a bright future in a position where we felt we needed to make a signing at junior level, although I feel he has the potential to become involved with the first team.
“He’s a confident, switched-on young kid. I played for England schoolboys with his dad and he was a classy player too.
“We hope he’ll get an opportunity to play first team but he will be very good for our junior team.
“We have some big forwards at that level and he’ll help in steering them round, just as they’ll help him.”
Meanwhile, Hyde heads to Wakefield after four years at Odsal.
A long-time target for Wildcats chief John Kear, the 20-year-old full back was unable to break into the Bulls’ Super League side despite showing early promise.
McNamara said: “It’s just not quite worked out for Kieran here and sometimes a parting of the ways is the best thing for everyone involved.”