FORMER Royal Marine Ryan Hepworth is being tipped as one of the players to watch at Sheffield Eagles next season.
Hepworth a big impression in his first season in the professional game and it's earned the rookie prop forward a new deal for 2008.
Coach Mark Aston said: "Ryan Hepworth - he's a player to watch out for next season.An ex-Marine he's had a great season jumping in from being in the forces to playing First Division rugby.
"It's good that he's staying because he's got a big future. He's big and strong and adds strength to the squad." Hepworth - who saw active service in the Middle East - was spotted playing for the Royal Navy rugby league side and had a handful of games for amateur club Shaw Cross before joining the Eagles.
Last season he played nine first team games - mainly in the Northern Rail Cup - scoring one try. Meanwhile Paul Pickering is ready to fight to win back the number nine shirt.
Pickering lost the starting spot towards the end of last season to former Doncaster front row man Craig Cook.
But Pickering - one of the key players in the Eagles promotion season - has agreed a contract for a third year at Don Valley.
Last season he played 19 games in all competitions scoring two tries.
The former Hull KR man's decision is boost for Mark Aston - giving cover and a battle for places in a key position.
"Paul Pickering has been one of our strong players again during the season," said Aston.