OPINION: We need to protect our Academies

OPINION: We need to protect our Academies

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Earlier, the RFL announced Bradford Bulls, Castleford Tigers and Hull KR would not be keeping their Elite Academy status.

In the latest academy applications update, the RFL confirmed those clubs’ licences would not be extended.

It is a real shame, given the players these clubs have brought through in recent years.

At Bradford, they have had the likes of John Bateman, Elliott Whitehead, James Bentley and Jake Trueman come through in recent years, and also the Burgess brothers a bit further back.

At Castleford, they have had Michael Shenton, Oliver Holmes, Daryl Clark and Greg Eden come through their academy.

Meanwhile, at Hull KR, Mikey Lewis, Joe Cator and James Green came through in recent years.

Since the announcement was made, I have seen some say this could benefit the community game, which it could well do. Players will not be getting picked off as easily from a young age, sometimes leaving clubs down to their bare bones.

However, a lot of young players start playing rugby league for their local community clubs in the hope of playing for a big-name club one day. But if you continue to dilute the pool of clubs who can do that, then that dream gets slimmer and slimmer for many young players.

It would be silly to pretend COVID is not a factor. In recent years, it has seen the likes of Widnes Vikings have to disband their academy all together.

For me personally, it seems almost inconceivable that some clubs do not have academies. Certainly for clubs in the Super League, and some Championship clubs, it should be a matter of importance to have that link, particularly for clubs that have community clubs on their doorstep.

Again using Widnes as an example, they have Widnes Moorfield Tigers, Halton Farnworth Hornets and defending North West Mens League champions West Bank Bears on their doorstep. Surely if you have those local lads in the club, it adds that extra desire to win that players who are not from the town will simply not have.

Leigh Centurions is another curious example. In Leigh East and Leigh Miners Rangers, they have two historic clubs literally just down the road from Leigh Sports Village- and yet we hardly see any local players coming through.

The three most successful clubs in the Super League era- St Helens, Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors- they are all built around a constant stream of young players coming through and making it into the first team. Even Bradford Bulls had a successful time when they were in the Super League, with the likes of Leon Pryce and Jamie Peacock coming into the team from their ranks.

Going forward, I think academies are crucial for the survival of the sport. I get that costs play a big part in whether or not a club runs an academy or not, but in order to grow the sport, we need to keep the pool as large as possible for as many clubs as possible.

I just hope you do not see clubs starting to struggle as a result of this decision.

About Post Author

Steven Hughes

I am a freelance journalist based in Liverpool, specialising in football, darts and rugby league
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