A string of academy players have penned professional deals at Newcastle Falcons as the club builds for the future.
Following the announcements of Scott Wilson, George McGuigan, Zach Kibirige, Ollie Hodgson, Glen Young and Craig Willis earlier in the year, eight more youngsters have sealed full-time terms at the North East club.
Each player will train alongside the first team squad during the week and will be on dual registration contracts with Blaydon, Tynedale or Darlington Mowden Park.
Potent-runner Sean Brown, 18, who was on the books of Sunderland AFC before his switch to Kingston Park, has been in sublime form for the Falcons Under-18s in what is only his third full season of rugby. The Prudhoe-born winger came to the fore against Leeds Carnegie Under-18s back in February, scoring a try and providing an assist for winger Zach Kibirige during his side’s 19-17 victory over the Yorkshirmen.
Full-back Simon Hammersley also joins the Falcons academy squad with huge potential having represented England Students for the past two seasons. Possessing excellent skills, the 20-year-old has a bright future in the game. Now entering his third year at Durham University, the former Hymers College and Hull Ionians player will be keen to impress on Tyneside after his studies finish in 2014.
23-year-old prop James Hallam extends his stay on Tyneside following a solid first campaign with the Falcons. The former England Students international and Durham University theology graduate made his senior debut as a replacement during the Falcons’ 24-13 victory over Tonga before getting his chance to shine in the British and Irish Cup final against Leinster ‘A’.
Abrasive hooker David Nelson has just completed his A Levels at Durham School and has been a member of the Falcons Junior Academy. Hailing from Bishop Auckland, the 18-year-old has power in abundance, a trait he developed in his rugby league days as a youngster.
Ben Morris, 21, is the fifth academy player to sign on the dotted line with the Yorkshireman recently completing his studies at Newcastle University. The former Leeds academy player and age group international was in outstanding form for Blaydon last term, and the versatile flanker has got just reward for his efforts.
Carlisle-born Harris will continue his rugby education in the North East after showcasing his talents for Tynedale and the Falcons 'A' Team. The 21-year-old, who studied architecture at Northumbria University, is now set to make the step up to full-time rugby where he will bring pace, power and tenacity to the table.
Exciting prospect Tom Penny has also sealed pro terms with the northeasterners having progressed through the ranks at Kingston Park from the age of 11. Penny, 18, played for Alnwick RFC whilst attending Newcastle RGS, and the explosive back has a strong defence in his locker.
Lancastrian Harrison Collins, 22, is the final academy player to pin his colours to the Falcons after recently finishing his studies at Durham University where he won two BUCS titles in three years with the Palatinates. An England Student international at blindside flanker, Harrison offers pace and energy from the back of the scrum and is an excellent line-out option.
Academy manager Mark Laycock said: “We have a really talented group of players at the moment and everyone at the club is excited to see how they progress.
“44% of the current first team squad have come through our academy system and in the past decade over twenty five players have gone on to earn full international honours. It’s a pretty good track record and even though there are peaks and troughs from year to year, we are confident that in the coming seasons we will see these numbers grow.”
Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards said: “I am very pleased to have secured the services of each of these talented individuals, and there is certainly some real quality coming through at the moment.”