Leeds Knights - Finley Bradon keen to contribute as ability to learn quickly on the job earns him new deal

HAVING been returned to the position where he spent most of his junior career, Finley Bradon has thrived at Leeds Knights this season.

To say the 18-year-old has blossomed in a second successive NIHL National championship-winning year would be something of an understatement.

His obvious development in his first full year with the team is why he has been handed a new two-year deal by head coach Ryan Aldridge.

An obvious no-brainer for all concerned.

ON THE RISE: Leeds Knights' Finley Bradon has had a breakthrough year. Picture: Tony Johnson.ON THE RISE: Leeds Knights' Finley Bradon has had a breakthrough year. Picture: Tony Johnson.
ON THE RISE: Leeds Knights' Finley Bradon has had a breakthrough year. Picture: Tony Johnson.
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So far this season, he has contributed 21 points in 51 league and cup appearances, the only games missed being as a result of his time spent with the Great Britain Under-20s team at the World Championships in Dumfries shortly before Christmas.

For Bradon himself, the key word is ‘contribute’ - something he wants to do increasingly more of over the course of the next two years of his time in Leeds and, many will hope, beyond the summer of 2026.

For now, though, both he and his coach are happy with where his game and his ‘contribution’ are at, something aided by his return to playing centre, as opposed to the wing.

Quite often, he has been centering a top line with Kieran Brown and import Matt Barron on either side of him. Another reason behind the growing impact he has had on games.

FORWARD-THINKING: Finley Bradon has earned himself a new two-year deal with Leeds Knights. Picture: Bruce RollinsonFORWARD-THINKING: Finley Bradon has earned himself a new two-year deal with Leeds Knights. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
FORWARD-THINKING: Finley Bradon has earned himself a new two-year deal with Leeds Knights. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
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“All my senior career I’ve been on the wing, but back playing centre just suits my game more,” said Bradon. “That’s especially the case in the defensive zone, I feel, where you see a lot more and that has allowed me to play how I think I can.

“Stepping back into the centre role has gone well, partly because I think I prefer playing there – I played centre when I was a junior - and so it’s just more of a natural fit for me.

“Also, whenever you’re playing with better players, you’re going to have to step up and so playing with Kieran and Matty has been good for getting me.

“They are unreal at times and very creative and they can think fast and I’d like to think I can as well and when we’ve been playing together, I think it has worked pretty well.”

IMPRESSED: Leeds Knights' head coach Ryan Aldridge has been delighted with the progress made by Finley Bradon this season. Picture courtesy iof Oliver Portamento.IMPRESSED: Leeds Knights' head coach Ryan Aldridge has been delighted with the progress made by Finley Bradon this season. Picture courtesy iof Oliver Portamento.
IMPRESSED: Leeds Knights' head coach Ryan Aldridge has been delighted with the progress made by Finley Bradon this season. Picture courtesy iof Oliver Portamento.
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Last season saw Bradon split his time between the Knights and North One’s Billingham Stars, the club where the Darlington-born forward came through the junior ranks.

He scored three goals and four assists in 28 games - a creditable return for a player who was still only 16-years-old when the 2022-23 campaign began.

But the move last summer to play and train only with the Knights has proved a crucial turning point in his development, benefitting both team and player.

“When I became full-time as it were with the Knights, I started the season just wanting to break through,” added Bradon. “Last year, coming in every other game or whatever it was, I was sitting on the bench a lot and that was understandable.

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“But I just wanted to show what I could do, play more and just get more ice time and make sure I was contributing.

“And that is the main thing for me, making sure that I contribute to the team in any way I can as often as possible.

“Sometimes I would come back from Billingham and I’d have missed things through not being around all the time, but it’s totally different now, being there all the time every week.

“I’m a lot closer with everyone, too, which has also helped. It’s done me the world of good and has also helped with my confidence.”

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Aldridge believes the sky is the limit for Bradon, who only turned 18 in November.

"He’s become a big part of the locker room, a big part of what we do on the ice and we obviously want him around for as long as possible,” said Aldridge.

"At the start of the year, it was tough and I probably put too much on him, with Cole (Shudra) leaving. I threw him on the top six.

“But it is tough, tough for a kid that age to come into this league. Obviously we’re a younger group than most, so it is a bit different, but I think it’s all down to mentality and he’s just got the right mentality.

“He wants to do what is best for the team, he’s a great young man and that is half the battle - if people know you are working hard and that you are a good person, too, they have time for you.”