York City Knights are delighted to confirm the capture of Huddersfield Giants’ prop Ronan Michael on a one-year loan deal, in association with Atropa Pharmacy.
21-year old Michael initially signed for the Giants’ first-team for the 2019 season before, in January 2020, moving to NRL club Canberra Raiders to play for their under-20s team. Despite not playing any matches due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Michael returned to Huddersfield and, in 2020, made his debut for the club against eventual Grand Final runners up Wigan Warriors.
This season saw first-team opportunities with Huddersfield scarce and this saw the Balbriggan-born forward join Swinton Lions on loan in May, a move that was extended to the end of the campaign.
That spell saw Michael face the Knights twice at the LNER Community Stadium in the 2021 season, scoring a first-half try in our AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Semi-Final victory over the Lions.
On his new recruit, Knights Head Coach James Ford said: “I’m pleased to strengthen our middle options with Ronan. He’s a hard-working and tough player that’s keen to add little bits to his game here and there.
“I’m really looking forward to working with him and helping him fulfil his potential.”
Discussing his move, Michael admitted he was delighted to join the club and pointed to his trips to the LNER Community Stadium last season.
“To be honest, I played at York twice last year when I was on loan at Swinton and we faced a very good side but, more than that, the atmosphere from the fans was outstanding. They don’t stop chanting for the whole eighty minutes.
“The facility at the stadium, as well, is absolutely outstanding and they’re clearly a very good side. As Fordy has said to me, we’re looking to push even further this year and try to make it all the way up.
“It’s a very competitive side and I’m really looking forward to getting amongst it, getting around the lads and I’m really keen to rip in with a good Championship side in a competitive competition.”
Ahead of joining the club, the Irish prop revealed that a 2021 Knights loanee sang the praises of the club. “Aidan McGowan doesn’t stop talking about his time up at York, he absolutely loved it. I think that might have been because he scored with his first touch – I’ve heard that story far too many times!”
“Aidan is one of my best mates and when he came to visit me in Ireland he was telling me all about his time at York. When I got the opportunity to come to York, I was over the moon. Aidan has been telling me all the great things about the club, from the facilities, the setup and how professional it is for a Championship club.”
A motivating factor for Michael throughout 2021 will no doubt be a possible World Cup spot with his national team.
“That’s another thing and a massive goal for me. With the World Cup pushed back a year, it’s another opportunity for me to get as many games as possible against grown men under my belt. It’s a huge, huge year for me to perform to my best to hopefully be picked to represent Ireland at the end of the year in the World Cup.
“It’s a really important year for me and I feel like there will be no better place than York for me to develop my game, really rip in and get some minutes playing against grown men.
Michael was a relative late-comer to the sport of rugby league in his native Ireland, revealing that he only picked up the sport four years ago. “I only started playing rugby league in 2017. I wanted to play union, make it as a pro in that, and I took a year out as I wanted to change amateur club. The year out was tough for me because I wanted to play rugby, to have physical contact. I was playing games of football and hurling, going to the gym but nothing was doing it for me.
“Then I came across rugby league. I went to a training session and asked what the name of the amateur team was. They laughed at me and said ‘you’re not playing for an amateur team, you’re playing for Ireland under-17s!’
“I was straight in the mix of it and we played a few games against Wales and then a few in-house games after that.
“The following year, in 2018, I got offered a trial with Huddersfield’s academy and it snowballed from there, really. A few doors opened for me and I took those opportunities with both hands and ran with them.
“That year I made my senior debut for Ireland and one thing led to another.”
During his time with Huddersfield, a link-up with an NRL giant saw Michael travel to the other side of the world for what was planned to be a full year.
“I got offered a first-team contract for the 2020 season. Around that time, Huddersfield had announced a deal where they were going to send one of the under-20s players for a year-long loan to Canberra as part of the link-up and development pathway.
“As soon as it was announced, I thought that it was great for the club to have this opportunity for someone. I never in a million years thought it’d be me!
“They said that they thought it would be great for my development if you go over to Canberra and then come back for the 2021 season as a more rounded player. You’d get some experience under some of the best coaches in the world and try to develop your game.
“You’re still quite new to rugby league so it’d be great for you to get one more year playing age-group rugby.
“When that came about, it was a no-brainer for me.
“Covid interrupted that but it was a massive opportunity and an eye-opener as to what the game is like on the other side of the world.
“It obviously ended early but, had it not, I wouldn’t have made my Super League debut that year. These things happen for a reason!”
Now at the Knights, Michael joins a pack full of experience and players who will be striving for a spot in James Ford’s matchday squad – something the 21-year-old is relishing. “Any good squad needs a bit of competition and it’s massive for the development of players. I think it’s huge for me to go into a squad where there are senior members who are going to be fighting to be in that seventeen each week.
“I need to really prove myself and it also means that I need to up my game. It means I can’t slack off because, at the end of the day, there will be someone right behind me ready to take the shirt off my back.
Finally, on what sort of player Knights fans can expect to see from our latest recruit, Michael commented: “I think they can expect to see me as a middle who will play a lot of minutes. They’ll see me do the tough graft, a lot of inside pressures and tough carries as well as a bit of ball-playing as well, hopefully!
“We’ll have to see what Fordy has to say about how he wants me to play but I feel that I’m going to be a hard worker and tough player for you!”
Michael’s signature finalises the initial make-up of the Knights 2022 squad – and there’s no better time to get your Season Membership to watch James Ford’s new-look team in action!
With four different packages available, there’s something for everyone with the Knights next season. Full details on our 2022 Season Memberships can be found on our website at yorkcityknights.com/22Memberships.