GIANT FORWARD Will Maher has committed his long-term future to Castleford Tigers by signing a four-year contract extension.
The deal will keep the Cumbrian prop, who made the breakthrough into Super League last season, at Castleford until the end of 2019 and is a huge boost for Tigers, who see him as one of the country’s brightest front-row prospects.
Maher came off the bench in last Friday’s 30-22 win at Hull KR and was the first player to graduate from the RFL’s regional academy programme when he linked up with Castleford in 2013.
Two more players from the Cumbrian Academy have since followed Maher to the Tigers.
Maher, 19, was part of the England Academy team that defeated Australia on aggregate in a two-match Test series last winter.
Of being offered a new deal, Maher said: “I was ecstatic when I heard the news.
“I’m over the moon as it’s something I’ve wanted to hear for a long time.
“Just to hear those words that I was to be kept on for a bit longer was just awesome.”
He added: “When I first came down here everyone was so welcoming, and that just sold it for me.
“The coaching staff are great, we have a great set of lads here, so it was an easy choice for me.”
Coach Daryl Powell believes Maher has the ability to develop into a top-class Super League player.
“Will has so much potential,” he said. “His size and contingency to develop as a big, powerful athlete is immense.
“He has improved considerably since making his debut last season and another pre-season is going to see him grow further as an athlete and as a rugby league player,”
Powell believes Maher is improving with each match at first team level.
“He is handling everything that is being thrown at him at the moment and although his game time has been limited to 10 or 15 minute stints he has gone really well,” he said.
“I see him as a big part of our future, both for this season and over the coming years.”
A product of the Ulverston amateur club, Maher signed for Tigers on a 12-month loan in September, 2013, but that was converted into a two-year permanent contract just three months later.
Meanwhile, Tigers are beiing strongly linked with French forward Gadwin Springer.
The 22-year-old prop or second-rower made his Super League debut for Catalans Dragons this season and is rated as one of the French game’s brightest prospects.
Springer, who has also played for Toulouse and Saint-Esteve, featured for Catalans in their home win over Hull KR this year and was a member of the team beaten at Castleford last month.