Jack Broadbent has already shown himself to be able to turn his hand to several positions in the Leeds Rhinos team, but the teenager has several other talents up his sleeve as well.
One of those is his experience as a qualified rugby league referee, having completed the RFL’s match officials’ course during his time with junior club Batley Boys along with several of his team-mates and then officiated youth games in the Heavy Woollen District.
His playing career has rapidly overtaken officiating, but Broadbent still looks back fondly on those days combining refereeing age-group games with playing and acting as a touch judge as far afield as the West Cumbrian strongholds of Egremont and Wath Brow at the pinnacle of the open-age amateur game.
“I don’t know why, but from a young age I had quite a lot of people in my team who wanted to be refs,” Broadbent said.
“Batley Boys paid for us to go on a referee’s course at Normanton, and it was two four-hour sessions. I did it when I was about 11 or 12, and there were five of us, and we were just going out locally and refereeing up to our age group.
“I remember when I was U16s playing scholarship at Leeds going out refereeing on a Sunday morning and we got to go up to Cumbria in the National Conference League touch-judging there. I’d have full days out soaking in rugby league.”
The 19-year-old may one day return to officiating once his playing career is over, although he is also in the process of deciding whether to study for a degree in sports management or sports marketing as he looks to life off the field.
Broadbent – and no doubt all of the Rhinos fans who have seen him in action during his first five Super League games – hopes it will be a long time before he has to worry about hanging his boots up though.
He has swiftly taken to life at the highest level of the professional game whether asked to play centre or full-back by Leeds head coach Richard Agar, having already gained experience on dual-registration with Featherstone Rovers in the Championship in 2019.
That included playing, and crossing for tries, twice on the wing in Challenge Cup matches against Swinton Lions and Bradford Bulls and although centre is likely to become his long-term position, Broadbent is happy to play wherever he is asked.
“Last week I was training predominantly at full-back just so I could nail down that position, but if we’re attacking and I’m playing at centre and there’s not a half there, I’ll go in,” Broadbent said.
The more I’m getting my hands on the ball, the better I’ll become as a player and Rich (Agar) is giving me the chance to learn, which I’m thriving on.
“The more I’m getting my hands on the ball, the better I’ll become as a player and Rich is giving me the chance to learn, which I’m thriving on.
“The majority of my playing through academy and scholarship, I’ve always been a centre, but if the team need me to play anywhere else, I’ll happily stick my hand up.
“Richard is saying centre is probably the position I’ve got nailed down most but being able to turn your hand to numerous positions is not a bad thing, especially at a young age. You look at what the likes of Liam Sutcliffe did – if there is a position going, I want to be filling in if I’m not starting.”
Broadbent was handed the No. 1 position for last week’s 18-10 defeat to Castleford Tigers in Super League due to Richie Myler suffering a hamstring injury and is set to continue there on Saturday afternoon as Leeds get their Challenge Cup defence underway in the absence of last year’s Lance Todd Trophy winner.
Annual trips to Challenge Cup finals at Wembley with his junior club have given Broadbent the desire to experience it as a player, while his team-mates who were part of last year’s 17-16 win behind closed doors are aiming to get back in 2021 to hopefully play in front of fans in July.
“Everyone says they remember trips to Wembley when you were younger, even if your team weren’t playing in it,” Broadbent said.
“Our junior club used to do a trip every year whoever was playing. The whole atmosphere and whole day of it is special.
“A lot of the lads did it last year without fans and now they’re saying they want to do it properly when fans can come and watch. Just lifting that trophy would mean the world to any youngster who was playing in it and watching it.”
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