University of Hull’s top rugby talent start 2022 with professional club debuts

Five of the University of Hull’s top rugby talents have kicked off 2022 by making debuts for professional clubs and moving to England Students.

Professional debuts from the group include Hull FC, Hull KR and Featherstone Rovers. Others have moved to England Students – an organisation made up of England’s rugby universities.   

The students have shared their rugby journeys so far and how the University’s Talented Athlete Programme has helped take their game to the next level.

The talented athletes and their careers so far:

Leon Stewart

Course: LLB Law

University year: 1st

Playing position: Second row, centre.

At 16, Leon was quite late to the game, but the coaches around him spotted his talent and helped him catch up and kick on with his career. Leon’s first coach at Sirius Academy in Hull recommended he play Rugby League. After starting out playing for West Hull, Leon recently made his professional debut for Hull FC where he says his heart lies. He hopes to secure a contract at the end of the season.

Leon’s recent Hull FC games have been against Bradford in a friendly and a testimonial game against Leeds Rhinos.

He said, “I can’t describe the atmosphere and the feeling of playing in that game – the crowd was cheering ­us on, it was fantastic.”

Speaking about the Talented Athlete Programme, Leon said he gets a boost from being around other students who are a part of the programme.

Richard Tate, the Player Performance Manager and Assistant Academy Coach at Hull FC, and Head Coach of England Universities Rugby League said of Leon:

“Leon has been a valued member of the Hull FC Academy programme who has shown a great level of commitment and discipline towards his development both on and off the field.

Alongside his time with Hull FC Academy, Leon was also successful in receiving international honours, representing England Academy U16’s. 

The hard work and commitment shown by Leon has been reflected in his progression in securing a Hull FC Reserves contract and making his recent first team debut. On top of that, this week Leon has made the England Universities squad for the 2022 season.

It’s fantastic to see the balance between the commitments of an elite sporting environment and continuation of Leon’s academic career.”

Richard also commented on Student Rugby League:

“It provides a great opportunity for players of all abilities to develop in a welcoming and inclusive environment and acts as a brilliant platform for people to try a new sport.

The structure of the sport provides an opportunity for players to receive representative honours and delivers a potential pathway into an elite Rugby League environment, for those new to the sport, or those outside of a current Academy pathway.”