Saints Academy graduates Lewis Baxter and Jonathan Bennison have signed their first professional deals with the Club after impressing whilst training with the first team.
19-year-old Baxter, a loose forward or prop has signed a two year deal whilst Bennison’s deal will see him train with the squad alongside studying at the University of Liverpool over the next three years.
Baxter, whose community club is Wigan St Judes, played 24 times for the Academy in 2019 scoring 8 tries as he helped Saints reach the Academy Grand Final. He also made 1 appearance for the Saints Reserves in 2020. He has been at the Club for 5 years, having joining as a scholarship player at Under 15s.
Bennison, who played for West Bank Bears and Thatto Heath Crusaders before joining Saints Academy in 2019, is a full back or stand off and made 3 appearances for the U18s in 2020 and has so far played seven times for the U19s, scoring an impressive seven tries along the way.
Both were part of the successful Academy Australia tour of 2019, playing alongside Lewis Dodd who has shown the way, impressing in the first team of late.
The promising duo have been training with the first team squad over the last few months and are delighted to sign their first professional deals.
Baxter said: “This is something I have been working towards since signing at Scholarship level. To finally get that chance to sign and kick on and potentially make a career for myself is brilliant. The speed and the intensity of training in the first team is miles ahead of the Academy level, but it is a challenge that I am looking forward to.
“I want to thank all the coaches including Derek Traynor and Neil Kilshaw as well as obviously Kristian Woolf for giving me the opportunity. He has told me what I need to improve on and that’s what I will be hoping to do. I want to work hard and learn off some of the senior players who have been doing this for years.”
Bennison said: “I am delighted to sign a deal and I am really looking forward to kicking on. I would like to thank all of the coaches who have helped me throughout the years and hopefully I can gain some experience over the coming months and years.
“I have really enjoyed the challenge of training with the first team and it really helps you raise you standards and improve both as a player and a person. I want to keep improving and be the best player I can be.”
Head Coach Kristian Woolf is delighted to welcome them to the group: “These are two guys who have worked so hard over the last few months around Covid protocols. I have been impressed with their work ethic and that fits in with how we are in the first team.
“They both love to compete and compete hard and those are attributes we look for. They have a good skill set and have shown that in training and in the academy and have been stand out players. That is what we look for when we look for young players and they certainly have the potential to be first graders.”
Head of Academy Derek Traynor added: “Both these lads fully deserve this opportunity to progress to the first team from the academy. They both handled the lockdown and all that we have been through with restricted training and even no training at times to come out of it as athletes.
“They have developed through this period and have shown their own discipline and commitment to make this opportunity happen. The pair have been model young professionals who have performed to very high standards in the academy and have always been very keen to learn and develop their game.
“They are young players who the players in the academy system now can learn from and see what rewards you get with the correct attitude, commitment and professional approach.”