Blackburn native Rhys Edwards is hoping his late call-up for Great Britain Under-18s can be the springboard for further experiences on the international stage.

The 18-year-old forward is a product of the Bradford Bulldogs' junior system and, after making a name for himself in the senior game at Widnes Wild last season, has stepped up another level in NIHL National with Hull Seahawks in 2023-24.

As a further sign of his development, the youngster was last week added to the GB Under-18 roster for this week’s World Championships Division 2A tournament in Poland. 

He replaces another former Bulldogs’ junior player, Gregor Mills - who has spent the season at Seahawks’ rivals, Leeds Knights - but who has been forced to pull out through work commitments. 

Along with the rest of the GB team, Edwards flew out to Sosnowiec ahead of the opening game of the tournament against hosts Poland this afternoon.

His first opportunity at GB will be helped by having a number of familiar faces alongside him, most notably Seahawks’ team-mate Owen Bruton and Bulldogs’ head coach, Andy Brown, is one of the squad’s two assistant coaches.

“This is a big step in terms of my progression, the honour of playing for my country,” said Edwards, who despite being born in Blackburn, has spent the vast majority of his junior career at Bradford. 

“To come into the GB programme for the first time and play at a world championships is an amazing opportunity. 

“Of course I hope for more opportunities. Next year, I will be on the younger end of the Under-20 age group, so I don’t expect anything. But I will continue to work hard and push to be the best player that I can be so I am ready for my next chance.”

The teenager, who has managed only a handful of junior games for Bradford due to his senior commitments with the Seahawks and, to a lesser extent this season, Widnes, acknowledges the impact his time at the Bulldogs has had on his career so far. 

“Having Andy as a coach throughout most of my junior career has pushed me and made sure I always put 100 per cent into every drill,” he added. “He encouraged me to go for Conference and England and to always push for the next level.

“Hull has obviously also helped my development and pushed me to reach even higher limits. The ice time there has also given me the experience and confidence that I needed.”

As well as their opener against the hosts, GB - led by head coach Sean Easton - will go on to face Croatia, Serbia and Romania before closing out against the Netherlands next Tuesday.

Only the group winners will earn promotion to Division 1 of the World Championships pyramid.

“The main target is to win gold,” said Edwards. “You need to look for promotion, that’s what we all want.”