Saints Back Reserve Call

IN 2012, Mike Rush said proposals to scrap the under 20s competition could result in a lost generation of young British players.

Since then, despite the Club’s success in the under 19s competition – and producing arguably the best first grade ready talent in the country – it has recognised and often been outspoken on the need for a system other than dual-registration.

Like many clubs, Saints have utilised dual-registration as to ensure its players gain valuable game time.

Indeed, the partnership with Rochdale Hornets has been one of the most successful in the sport.

But it is limited in terms of competition level and the type of player than can be used – and as there is no ‘weekly’ dual-registration allowed in the Super 8s some players may have already played their last game of the season.

Clubs have to decide whether to dual-register players for the entire Super 8s phase now or retain them within their own first team set up.

As a result of the current system, Saints are working with six to ten clubs who are all looking at playing a reserve (open age) set of fixtures for next season.

The suggested format would still see the Saints working with its partnership club by allowing those not selected to play for the Championship side the chance to gain game time with the Super League Reserve team.

This will be a step forward in allowing players to gain that game time in a competitive high level environment whilst ensuring they are not lost from our sport.

The idea of a three tier system has always had the support of the RFL and now many clubs can once again see the value in the reserve competition.

“We originally voted against the scrapping of the under 20s and also voted against the current system from its outset,” Saints Chief Executive Mike Rush said. “I’m very passionate about is developing young players and we have probably produced more than anybody in the last decade and we believe we know how to take a kid from the amateur game into full time rugby league.

“All young players develop at different rates and the three tier system gives more kids a better opportunity of making it to SL.”

Saints Head Coach Keiron Cunningham this week expressed his concern at the lack of another tier.

“Getting juniors through the system is the biggest part of rugby league,” he said. “I am a strong believer in producing youngsters but if you’re not going to give your kids a chance you are going to struggle.

“A system of reserve rugby is much needed. You nurture players from being nine or ten and get to a point where you have them in your system, put three years into them and then have to make a decision on their future.

“Some aren’t ready for Super League but you can’t go to your partner club and say you have someone with potential but you’re not sure if they are ready.

“The system is upside down – the cart is certainly in front of the horse – and it’s understandable why you have to go overseas and get players. I’m sure we’ve had players that could have still been at the club with a better system.”

Rush is hoping that the group of clubs will be in a position to announce the ‘extra tier’ shortly.

He continued: “It’s clear we need as many opportunities for these players to get as much game time as possible. The current system of an under 19s and a first team isn’t sufficient and we are denying youngsters, the lifeblood of our sport, the chance to develop.

“A new reserve system, which will allow players all ages to play, would be a step forward and we hope to have more details soon.”

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