A TRIO of Dowdales old boys – members of the Dalton School’s all-conquering team who picked up three national titles – are on the verge of making their big break after a successful first year in the Super League Academy ranks.

Liam Paisley (Wigan), Ellis Graham (Warrington) and Brad Walker (Widnes) are enjoying life rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in rugby league.

And they are likely to be joined by another member of the Dowdales’ success story – Jacques O’Neill, who played in the third of the hat-trick of cup triumphs – is on Castleford Tigers’ roster.

For Liam Paisley it was a dream season ending with Wigan’s 22-10 victory over big rivals St Helens at the DW Stadium.

An England Academy international, the 17-year-old centre enthused: “It was a very exciting time, winning everything in my first year.

“Expectations are very high at Wigan so finishing top of the league and winning the Grand Final meant we lived up to them.

“But it was not just the final that provided a highlight – the last eight games we played in the play-offs were exciting.”

Liam, who will be 18 next month, named Barrow Raiders coach Paul Crarey as the biggest influence on his career. But it was a big-name Wigan opponent – former Saints centre Jamie Lyon – who he picked as his inspiration and whose style he would like to follow.

“Just being part of one of the biggest clubs in Super League is an exciting time,” he said.

Ellis Gillam’s first year among Super League’s professionals started with a whimper but ended with a spark if not quite a bang.

The former Dowdales second row forward, a member of the Warrington Wolves Academy, was delighted with his progress under the guidance of former Wolves superstar Lee Briers, and can’t wait to get back into action.

“I enjoyed a lot more game-time than I expected and the club really looked after us,” he said.

“We started very slowly and got some big scores put on us especially by Wigan, but we improved as the season went on and reached the semi-final. We didn’t quite make it to the final which was won by Wigan.

“My own game has improved a lot but I know I still have a long way to go.”

After their October break, Ellis and his team-mates are back in training next month.

The highlight of 17-year-old loose-forward Brad Walker’s first season at Widnes came when he was offered – and signed – a first- team contract.

Coached by former Huddersfield and Warrington full-back Brett Hodgson, Brad found life with the Vikings close to perfect.

“The set-up was even better than I expected and I learned a lot from the coaching staff,” he said.

“Although the team did not do too well I was more than happy with my own performances.

“They were obviously good enough for me to be offered a three-year first-team contract and signing it was the high spot of the year.”