One of the first matters on director of rugby Phil Davies’ agenda when he returned almost 18 months ago was strengthening links with the rugby departments of Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds.
Having dropped the Yorkshire Carnegie name after relegation from the Championship was confirmed last April, the club is concentrating on re-establishing itself in the city after reverting to Leeds Tykes.
With Davies’ former Llanelli, Leeds and Wales team-mate Colin Stephens in charge of Leeds Beckett and Pete Seabourne, the ex-Morley head coach, at the helm of University of Leeds, they have come together to help forge mutually beneficial pathways for players.
A number of talented students could feature when the 2021-22 National One season begins but Jukes is another example of the relationship working – alumni continuing to play if they stay and live in Leeds.
“I actually graduated from University of Leeds in 2018 and picked up a job in local civil engineering,” he said.
“But I kept in touch with Pete Seabourne, the head coach at the University of Leeds and, about 12 months ago, he said there was an opportunity here.
“I’ve been involved since then and – after restrictions were eased – have been training for the last six weeks.
“It’s gone from there. It’s a chance to play at a higher level and a lot of other guys from university will be able to make the most of it. We can see where it goes from there.”
Jukes has been with Harrogate for the last three seasons but is now looking to make his mark with Tykes after recovering fully from some shoulder issues.
The likes of ex-Leeds and England winger Dan Scarbrough – who played with Tykes during their halcyon days in the Premiership – and British Lions legend John Bentley attend a season launch event at the Dakota Hotel in Leeds on Tuesday.
Jukes, who hails from mid-Wales, was one of the players who spoke to sponsors and members as Davies also outlined the club’s plans.
He said: “I’m 25 now.
“I do remember when Tykes were in the Premiership but – being 13 years ago – not much about the force that they were.
“It is just good to get an opportunity to be a part of the new chapter here, though.
“It’s an exciting time and it was good to play our first game at the weekend.”
Jukes scored a try as Tykes defeated Leeds Beckett 20-19 with the final kick of the game of their Ventur Cup contest, the pre-season competition which continues tomorrow when Davies’ side head to Hull Ionians.
After 14 months of lockdown and no action for the squad, Jukes admitted: “It was wet and slippy so not ideal conditions for me but it was good to get back into it and get knocked around a bit. I have missed it. It was everyone’s first game so everyone was buzzing for it. The hits were bigger than what I’m used to and it was very physical but it’s good to get back into it properly.
“Ionians had a vere close game with Beckett the previous week so we know it will be similar on Saturday. But Phil wants to make sure he gives everyone a start in these first few weeks so there’ll be a few new faces and they’ll be gunning for it.”
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