David Clegg Continues His In-Depth Introduction Of The Senior Players Of Our U19s Squad With Cumbrian Prop, Jonny Scott
You have to admire the stamina and dedication of the number of U19s players, who have been prepared to travel the not insignificant distance to Salford from the rugby league outposts in Cumbria, two or even three times a week, to train with their team mates here at the A J Bell Stadium. In Jonny Scott’s case, though, this is stretching those qualities to the limit as, after an initial two years with the U16s, and now at the start of his final year in the U19s, he, and I suspect his extremely supportive family, will be embarking on their fifth year of undertaking this somewhat onerous part of belonging to a professional club.
It is, in fact, that cauldron of passion for rugby league we know as Whitehaven, in which Jonny grew up, and on the back of sundry visits to the well-known Recreation Ground, quickly grew to enjoy the game through watching, and also playing it in the local park with his friends. It was not, though, until he had reached the age of ten that he took it upon himself to join a club, unsurprisingly, settling on the closest of these, Kells.
Although his size immediately singled him out as a prop, after two years he was moved into the centre, and then, at the age of fourteen, return to the pack at loose forward. He found positives in both of these changes, with the centre bringing him a lot more ball work and space to exploit, and this led to his scoring a considerable number of tries, which meant that he was often selected as Man of the Match.
His later move to loose forward was one that particularly suited him as he relished the freedom to roam the middle of the field at will. Indeed, it was not until he came to Salford that he returned, once more, to his now established role of prop forward.
In joining Kells his choice proved to be first rate, because they proved to be by one of the best side in the county, and they quite frequently won not only the Cumbria County Cup or league, but also lifted other local trophies for which were eligible to contest. Jonny tells me they always used to take the field expecting to win, and by the time they had risen to U16s level, they went, throughout the whole season, unbeaten.
Consequently, when the then Salford City Reds developed some quite close but informal links with Whitehaven, members of the Academy coaching staff ran a coaching session for the Kells players. Jonny quite clearly impressed them, because immediately after he was invited down to join the Salford U16s squad. His acceptance was just as immediate, and it was not long before he had joined a group of three other players who were already making the regular car journeys down to Greater Manchester.
As with so many of the youngster who make the step up from amateur to professional level, it took him some little time to adjust to the increased demands, expectations, and standards, but then, when his debut eventually came, lo and behold it turned out to be against, of all people, Cumbria, at none other than the Recreation Ground, Whitehaven.
It would have been nice to report that against many of his mates from Kells, and other local clubs, he had a dream start in the Salford shirt, but the truth is that he ended up on the losing start, and, as might be expected, had to contend with a fair amount of ribbing from the victors. Things did not get much better very quickly, for wins were few and far between, for that particular side.
Graduation to the U19s, after two years with the U16s, brought him a further higher standard to which he had to adjust, and now back in the front row, an increase in physicality, as he sought to adapt to the challenge of dealing with older, and physically more mature forwards than himself.
“It was a big step up for me, propping against lads three years older than me” he acknowledges, “but I was never in any way daunted at doing so.”
Now, one of the select group of senior players, he is gearing himself up for the additional requirements expected of third year players, whilst ensuring that he is equally undaunted by the responsibility that this brings.
And after all the disappointments of those early losses, at the end of last season he had the opportunity to rediscover the pleasure we all get from being on the winning side, as the Red Devils lifted the Group 2 winners’ trophy to cap a quite spectacular turn around in their fortunes in the later part of the year.