YORK City Knights youngsters Myles Harrison and AJ Towse say that their dreams have come true after making their professional debuts against Wigan Warriors and signing long-term deals with the club.

Harrison and Towse, both 17, made their York bows in the 26-0 Betfred Challenge Cup defeat to Betfred Super League giants Wigan at the LNER Community Stadium.

The debuts came just short of 18 months after the pair had joined the Knights on trial, then community dual registration terms from local amateur side Heworth ARLFC and then more latterly on professional contacts until the end of the 2023 season.

“It was all building up to that moment,” said Harrison, who started at full-back. “My family were really proud because I’ve been playing rugby since I was six years old and it’s always been my dream to become a professional.

“At 16, I got to a point where, because there was no academy interest, I thought that it was out of the window, so I’m really grateful that the Knights have taken me on and now put their trust into me with a three-year contract.”

Winger Towse, who came on during the second-half as an interchange, said of his contract offer: “I got asked to have a meeting with Fordy (James Ford, coach) and Jon (Flatman, chairman) and they phrased it by saying to me ‘Your 18 month apprenticeship is done and we want to give you the job’.”

“I’m looking long-term, looking to better myself and put myself in the best possible position come the next pre-season.

“I want to develop physically, mentally and develop my skills and mature as a player the best I can to hopefully be competing for a spot in the future.”

Ahead of their debuts, Harrison and Towse were asked to make short speeches to the rest of the squad, a prospect perhaps even more nerve-wracking than facing Wigan.

“Fordy announced the team in training and he asked me to stand up and say a few words,” said Harrison.

“I spoke about how proud I was and how proud my family are. It was nerve-wracking because I only had about 10 minutes to think it up.”

Towse added: “I said thank you to all of the boys because I’d come into the team in 2019 as a bit of a lost kid, looking for some guidance and not wanting to put a foot wrong.

“I thanked them for being patient with me and taking time out of their day to be kind to me really.”

Harrison and Towse admitted to being nervous before the game but again credited the support of their team-mates.

“I just remember being nervous all day and then I was stewing on the sideline, waiting to be given the nod to go on,” said Towse.

“I’d been given the hint that I was coming on in the second half at some point so I was warming up every four or five minutes or so on the sideline.

“I just wanted to make an impact when I got on.

“But it was an amazing day and it was a surreal experience.”

Harrison added: “It was quite surreal seeing all of the players I was coming up against like Zak Hardaker, Jackson Hastings and John Bateson.

“It was a great learning curve because there’s probably not many better teams than Wigan, so it was a great way for me to learn and get used to how the game is.”

Both players performed admirably for their first outings, with Harrison winning the fans’ man of the match after an online poll.

He was consummate under the high ball and, with York missing several half-backs, took the responsibility of some end-of-set kicks in the face of some fierce Wigan kick pressure.

“It wasn’t too bad, to be honest,” said a modest Harrison of the treatment he received. “I don’t think Wigan were expecting me to be kicking but they did, they were relentless with me and they were in my ear a little bit, but that’s rugby league isn’t it?

“And I quite pride myself on my taking of high balls, I work on it in training quite a lot. I didn’t think I had many challenging ones, so I was quite happy with how I performed.”

Towse was equally self-effacing when discussing his try-saving tackle on Umyla Hanley.

He said: “The picture dramatises it a bit. I saw him catch the ball out wide and thought ‘I should be over there’.

“So I just dived at him and he dropped the ball. It was a split-second decision and I was hoping for the best, but it seemed to come off and it made for a cracking photo.”

Looking ahead, the ex-Heworth pairing insist that there remains plenty of work still to do to achieve their ultimate goal of becoming Knights regulars.

“Without a doubt, I need to get bigger and learn a lot more about the game,” said Harrison.

“On my performance against Wigan, because it was me, it was a good performance, but if it was Matty Marsh, it was an average performance, so I know that I’ve still got a long way to go.”

Towse said: “Everyone at the club is supportive and most of the players at the club, if not all of them, are so supportive and will take time out of their day to teach you, support you and help you out, which is a major credit to the team.”