NEWCASTLE youngster Sinclair Matthews has moved one step closer to rugby league stardom, having been snapped up by Super League giants Leeds Rhinos.
The 16-year-old has signed scholarship forms with the Yorkshire club, having risen through the ranks with Wallsend Eagles Amateur Rugby League Club.
Sinclair joins older brother Crawford in chasing the professional dream, with his 19-year-old sibling currently on the books of fellow Super League side Hull FC.
The Heaton pair represented England Community Lions and England Colleges last season, with Sinclair having also starred for Scotland at both Under-18s and 16s levels.
The Heaton Manor schoolboy followed his brother recently in winning the Leech Homes Trophy for North East talent, previously held by rugby union stars Toby Flood, Mathew Tait and Jamie Noon, and was also voted the ‘Rising Star’ at the 2010 Sport Newcastle Awards.
Sinclair will now travel to Leeds every week as he looks to emulate fellow Wallsend Eagles brothers Paul, Neil and Chris Thorman in joining the professional game.
“Being offered a scholarship from such a prestigious and hugely successful club is a dream,” he said.
“Sport Newcastle supported and encouraged me at school, and then being selected as an elite athlete on the Newcastle School Sport Partnership’s ‘One of Us’ programme has opened doors for me. I’m really looking forward to some serious training at Leeds.”
The Rhinos academy is widely regarded as one of the prime breeding grounds for rugby league talent, with England international Rob Burrow one of the heroes on hand to welcome Sinclair into the fold this week at Headingley.
Barrie McDermott is the Rhinos’ head of youth development, with the former Great Britain prop explaining: “There is so much competition for young athletes so we look for the best possible talent, whether that is on our own doorstep or further afield.
“We have strong links in the North East through our relationship with regional development officer John Gray, and RFL Talent Coaches Andy Kelly and Robin Peers.
“Because of our record with young players here at Leeds Rhinos they know that we can develop potential talent, and we are pleased to include Sinclair in that process.”
Being voted players’ player of the year for Wallsend Eagles in 2008, 2009 and 2010, the Heaton star was also the club’s top try-scorer last year.
As well as developing his rugby league talent the Leeds Rhinos scholarship will also see the him work on psychology, strength and conditioning, physiology, life skills and injury prevention, as he continues to pursue his A-Levels at Heaton Manor School.