It seems Christmas may have come early for 17-year-old Ben Wood whose advancement to the First Team was described by himself as a “really proud moment”. Overwhelming to most, but Ben in his own words is coping well.
“It’s a great opportunity to get in and around the First Team – obviously they are big lads! They have been big, tough physical sessions but I’m finding it okay.”
“It’s mainly been skill work and some defence this week. The biggest difference in the game has been the speed. It’s a completely different sport from your College and Academy level.”
Wood, who represents both the Tigers College and Academy is a strong, explosive prop and enters his fourth year at Castleford. The local lad will be surrounded by some of his role models up until Christmas, and Ben stated that he has already received a helping hand from members of the pack.
“I’m definitely looking up towards Liam Watts. His presence in and around Castleford has been massive since he has joined and it’s really good to be amongst that in training.
“Tyla Hepi has been really welcoming too. We play in similar positions and whenever I have felt unsure, I have asked him, and he has been really helpful.
“Also, Kenny Edwards has had his arm around me this morning and told me a few things that I could work on from looking at video and training from yesterday.”
In reaction to Ben’s arrival to the First Team, the Tigers’ Kenny Edwards said: “Sometimes when young players come through, they have a fear of running hard and direct, but Ben doesn’t seem to have that fright.”
Education and Development Manager Rob Nickolay, highlighted Ben Wood as somebody who was ready to make the step up to training with the First Team, after his performances and consistency at the Tigers College. The recommendation was passed on to Lee Radford and his team, who wanted to a have a further look at Wood.
Head Coach Lee Radford said: “I’m obviously finding my feet still with regards to players in the youth but the reports I’ve had at College and training with the Academy has all been really good.
“We want more players coming through the College and up to the First Team. There is more than one route into Super League and the more avenues we can create for young people the better it is going to be, and Woody is a good example of that.”
For the College, Ben has been complimented for his leadership and professionalism amongst the rest of the squad – a collection of qualities that caught the eye of Rob Nickolay.
“The way he conducts himself and how he introduces himself, you can see the standards that he holds. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying but before I took him in to see Lee Radford, he was clearly nervous.
“But he wasn’t sat there on his phone. Ben made sure he didn’t bring it in with him because he didn’t want to be perceived as somebody that was disinterested. That for me spoke volumes.”
Ben’s journey through to the First Team has come through one of the many routes available at Castleford Tigers. Rob further touched on how Ben’s successes can have huge impact on young, aspiring rugby players.
“Ben is a testament to the system. Everyone within the programme is looking at what their next natural step and challenge is. There are college boys that are looking at moving into the Academy environment too.
“At this moment, it is providing everybody with that lift and clearly shows that we have a conveyor belt and pathway right throughout the Club.”
To finish, Ben added: “Been a part of Castleford Tigers College has enabled me to be part of the Club. I’m training more, I’m getting the right education and it’s going to help me progress further.”
“This experience with the First Team is really going to help my own personal development.”