CASTLEFORD TIGERS youngster Will Maher is visible proof that the Rugby Football League (RFL) Regional Academy Programme works.
The teenage prop has retained his place in the 19-man squad for tomorrow night’s trip to Wigan Warriors after impressing in Sunday’s 36-28 victory over Catalans Dragons.
Maher, who has now played four senior games, hails from Cumbria and was the first product of the Regional Academy project to sign a professional deal.
He explained: “A lot of us from Cumbria didn’t get signed on by Super League clubs.
“There was a clear correlation; we’d go down there (to Yorkshire and Lancashire teams), spend a couple of years on scholarship but find it too hard away from our families and would just go back home.
“The Academies idea was to have a Super League training environment based in Cumbria, so without the need to move away.
“It was great and meant you could mature a little first. I trained there for nearly a year before coming down to Cas after one of their academy coaches spotted me playing for Cumbria v English Colleges.
“I’m really enjoying it (Super League) and it has been unexpected if I’m honest as I didn’t expect to get this many games so soon.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind over the last year and great to experience my first home match last Sunday.”
Maher certainly has plenty of props to call on for advice, too, with ex-Great Britain star Andy Lynch – who has played more than 400 games – Australian Grant Millington and six-times Grand Final winner Ryan Bailey all at Wheldon Road.
“There’s so much experience in our front-row and all always willing to help,” he added.
“They get to see me train every day and play so they know what I need to work on.
“But they are really good off the field, too, good friends who are so easy to get on with.”
Castleford have won four of their last five games but head to a Wigan team who thrashed Hull KR 60-0 last Friday.
Nevertheless, Maher said: “We’re always confident, where ever we go. If this team is on, we can challenge everyone and that will be the aim at Wigan.”
Castleford Tigers from: Bailey, Boyle, Clare, Channing, Finn, Gale, Gibson, Jewitt, Maher, Mariano, Millington, Milner, Moors, Roberts, Robson, Shenton, Tansey, Webster, Wheeldon.