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Pictured: Leeds forwards Jordan Bladwinson (left) and Mason Tonks.

The Vodafone Warriors have today signalled a new direction in their recruitment strategy by announcing theyve signed two elite junior players from England for the clubs NYC squad next season.

General manager football operations Dean Bell said snaring highly-rated 18-year-old Leeds forwards Jordan Baldwinson and Mason Tonks underlined the clubs aim to promote and develop young players from not only New Zealand but also other parts of world.

The signings are a direct result of a reconnaissance trip Bell and chief executive Wayne Scurrah made to England recently where they met up with leading player agents including Craig Harrison, who manages both players.

Were really excited about signing Jordan and Mason. For us, this is the start of something new and something we see working very well for our club and for the game generally, he said.

Jordan has already made his Super League debut this year and Mason is highly regarded as well. While theyre only very young theyve both got the qualities needed to become NRL players of the future.

Were seeing more and more evidence of players from Super League clubs having success in the NRL. Adrian Morley, Gareth Ellis and Sam Burgess have led the way while South Sydney is doing a great job developing the other Burgess boys into NRL players as well.

Vodafone Warriors junior recruitment and pathways coach Stacey Jones, who will coach the clubs NYC side next season, welcomed the signings.

Theyre two young boys with big reputations and Im sure theyre going to make a real difference to our squad, he said.

Were committed to developing New Zealand players but were also keen to have the best players in our system wherever they come from.

Like Dean, Ive seen firsthand what sort of talent there is in England. Its going to be of real benefit to us having strong relationships in the United Kingdom.

Baldwinson, a Hunslet Hawks amateur, has been in the Leeds system since 2007. He captained the England Under-18s against France this year.

Im so excited about the opportunity to join the Warriors, he said.

I recently made my Super League debut for Leeds and the club wanted to keep me but Ive always admired the NRL. Its such a tough competition and I believe it will make me a better player being exposed to the intense competition week in, week out.

Castleford-born and raised Tonks joined the Leeds academy in 2011, played for the clubs Under-20 in 2012 and has been involved with the first team squad this year.

Its a big move leaving home to come down to New Zealand but I really look forward to the challenge, he said.

I spent some time in Australia three years ago as part of a school exchange programme and enjoyed that and the profile rugby league enjoys in the southern hemisphere.

The signings come at a time when the Vodafone Warriors have established a sister club partnership with Wigan, Bells long-time club during his playing career and later in a coaching and management role when he returned to England after the 1995 season as the Warriors foundation captain.

In a reciprocal gesture, Wigan general manager Kris Radlinski was in Auckland to spend time at the Vodafone Warriors just last month.

Vodafone Warriors assistant coach Ricky Henry is further strengthening the clubs relationships in England this week. He flew to the United Kingdom from Perth after the Vodafone Warriors clash against South Sydney and has visited Wigan and Warrington rugby league clubs plus Everton and Manchester City football clubs.


Date of Birth: November 10, 1994

Birthplace: Leeds, England

Height: 188cm

Weight: 101kg

Position: Prop/Second Row

Junior Club: Hunslet Hawks

Club: Leeds Rhinos

Rep Honours England Under18 and Under-15


Date of Birth: October 11, 1994

Birthplace: Castleford, England

Height: 188cm

Weight: 100kg

Position: Second Row

Junior Clubs:Smawthorne Panthers, Normanton Knights

Club: Leeds Rhinos
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The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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