Leeds Carnegie have moved to discourage further suitors of their talented squad by securing the signatures of five more important first-teamers.
They bring their regular Championship campaign to a close tonight when hosting Cornish Pirates at Headingley knowing a sizeable win could see them finish as high as second in the table.
It is, though, more likely James Lowes’s side will round off in third but, even so, a successful campaign has alerted many to the quality in their ranks.
Full-back Stevie McColl will join Gloucester next season, lock Calum Green is also Premiership-bound with Newcastle Falcons and others have been earmarked by top-flight clubs.
However, it is announced today that winger Oli Goss, hooker Joe Graham, second-row Nathan Hannay and prop Ben Hooper have all signed one-year deals to remain with Leeds whether they secure promotion or not.
Furthermore, Jack Barnard, the 19-year-old back-row who made his Championship debut recently against Plymouth Albion, has confirmed a two-year contract as Lowes continues securing foundations for the future.
“We are all excited about next season and the potential this group of players has to develop together as a unit,” said Leeds director of rugby Chris Gibson, with the side likely to play London Welsh in the top four play-off semi-finals next month.
“Whilst we are always looking to add quality to our group, it was also important to retain the core who have helped secure our place in the play-offs.
“We are hoping to finish the regular season strongly against Cornish and then travel to Bristol next week in the British and Irish Cup semi-final in good spirit.
“Whilst clearly the two legs of the play-off semi-finals are paramount in our thoughts, the Bristol game represents a chance for us to reach a final for only the third time in our club’s history and we will certainly go there with a positive mind set.
“We are hoping to announce a number of new signings next week and we are still speaking to a couple of players within the current group regarding new or upgraded contracts.”
Someone who is already under contract next season – when Leeds change their name to Yorkshire Carnegie in a bid to embrace the whole county – and will be looking to advance his claims for an improved deal is Christian Georgiou
At 22, the Halifax-born winger has made a place on the Leeds flank his own in recent weeks, with a try in Saturday’s derby win over promotion rivals Rotherham Titans just reward for his opportunism and patience.
He has been made to wait and has taken a circuitous route to the club’s first team, but it is one that offers a blueprint to any aspiring youngster hoping to join the Yorkshire Carnegie revolution.
Georgiou first joined the club’s academy when they were still the Tykes back in 2005.
Through the ranks he climbed, winning the Yorkshire Cup with a development Carnegie team four years later.
But it was the opportunity he was given as an 18-year-old to try his hand at first-team rugby with Otley that gave him the best grounding.
“I’ve been at Leeds all my career, but I went out on loan at Wharfedale for the past two seasons and I had two years at Otley prior to that,” said Georgiou.
“The dual-registration system has been good to me, it’s given me first-team rugby right throughout my development, even if it’s just at the lower levels.
“I think what this club is trying to do next year is the right way to go about it. It’s a good set-up, good coaching staff and it’s a great place to learn your trade.
“It’s given me the chance to show what I can do in the Championship and that’s all I’m trying to do now, just take my chance.”
Take it he has. Given only a fourth start of the season by Lowes against Plymouth in the British and Irish Cup earlier this month, he has not looked back since.
His try at Rotherham was his first of the season, and a slick one at that as it showed not only his running ability but helped Leeds build an unassailable 24-0 lead at the interval.
“It was good work from Stevie McColl and Glyn Hughes on the inside and I just came in off their shoulder,” he said.
“It was nice to get back on the scoresheet.”
They now need just a point tonight to secure third spot,
Lowes, meanwhile, has made four changes with a new half-back pairing of Jonny Bentley and James Doherty starting against their former club tonight and in the front row Lee Imiolek and Phil Nilsen return for Charlie Beech and Graham respectively.