Super League prospects now have every incentive - Gareth Ellis column

I was saying to Ben McNamara the other day about how I used to run rings around his dad in training – and now he runs rings around me so it’s come full circle.

Emerging talent: Hull FC's Ben McNamara. Picture: SWPix

If there’s any good to come out of the Covid situation it’s the amount of opportunities young kids are getting in Super League.

At any other time, some of them might have been a couple of years away from featuring in the first team but there’s been plenty at lots of clubs getting chances.

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At Hull FC, Ben – who is 18 – is a great example. He is definitely someone who would have been 12 months or maybe even two years away from a debut.

Taking his chance: Hull FC's Jack Brown is tackled by Warrington's Ben Murdoch-Masila. Picture by Allan McKenzie/

Half-backs normally take a little bit of time to learn their craft but the situation is that he’s had a crack early on.

He debuted off the bench at Castleford and got longer minutes than he thought when Kieran Buchanan got injured.

Then he made his full debut at Leeds Rhinos on Thursday.

I hope that’s enough to whet his appetite. He is a really hard-working kid anyway and I hope that has set him on the path to wanting more of that. The way he will do that is by working hard and when his opportunities do come around again by taking them.

I played with his dad Steve at Wakefield Trinity. It’s been surreal to think that!

It was just for one year and it was a mad year as well in 2000 with loads of financial problems going on but it was good for me having people like Steve there.

I bet the senior guys – like Steve, Tony Kemp and Andy Fisher – would have been pulling their hair out with what was happening but I was oblivious to it all. It didn’t really affect me. Instead, it gave me more opportunities than anything.

Having people like Steve there was great for me. I’d known nothing other than Wakefield whereas he’d been at Bradford Bulls – the top club – and he gave me a lot of guidance. He opened my eyes to things about where you can go in the game or how things should be done right and were being done right elsewhere.

He was really good for me. I can see Steve as a person and as a parent in his lad; Ben is very similar in his ways, really well brought up and Steve was like that. I remember my dad used to take me to train a lot and drop me off at Cas’ bus station.

Back then, Steve – and Steve Prescott – were travelling in from Hull and a couple of times they’d seen me. Steve would stop to take me in so my dad could get off to work. They were good people and it’s that kind of guidance you need. I’d like to see myself going that way at Hull; that type of person in 10, 15 years time who players will say ‘I remember when Gareth Ellis told me this...’

I want to help this group of players who are in the first team now to try to make that next level. Another who has got his chance at Hull is Jack Brown.

I remember a couple of years ago he had been in the England Academy set-up for quite a while and then didn’t get picked. They’d told him he was too small and they’d picked someone else.

I remember him getting a bit of a bee in his bonnet about it but he attacked it in the right way.

Rather than sulking and thinking the world’s against him he thought he’d show them. That was his attitude.

You can see that about him now in the way in which he plays; he’s not the biggest of front-rows but can make something of a carry, runs a bit lateral and pinballs about.

He’s got a really good offload and it’s great to see him and others get an opportunity.

They’ve been exposed and Jack Brown’s excelling in it. For lads who have had opportunity to play – even if they don’t play too much in the next couple of years – this has given them an idea of where they need to be.

It’s pretty much Academy into first team nowadays and what this will allow them to do is see what it entails. They’ll have gone from dominating Academy rugby where they’re bigger, stronger, faster or more skilful than who they’re playing against.

This has been a really good opportunity to play Super League and realise this is really where they need to be.

It’ll make them think about how they need to take their game to higher levels. Sometimes chances don’t come your way. You fall by the wayside.

Sometimes you get that chance. Hopefully, it’s given them hope and desire to kick-on both on and off the field.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson