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micktheleyther Stevo's Armpit

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I firmly believe that we need a youth development system that:

  • Ends the big club monopoly on youth development
  • Gives other clubs the opportunity to invest in academies without the full costs associated with running their own systems
  • Encourages all teams to invest healthy and appropriate amounts of money in youth development
  • Rewards clubs suitably with players or compensation for their investment
  • Allows youth players the freedom to sign with the team of their choice when leaving the academy system
  • Involves a neutral authority to look after the interests of both youth players and the overall strategy game in the UK
  • Tailors individual programmes to suit the area in which they are operating

If we're worried that too many academies dilutes the quality of the pathways to the pro game too much, my suggestion is that academies should be decoupled from clubs. The current setup simply grants the top clubs a conveyor belt of talent which makes it easier for those clubs to stay at the top. That isn't in the interests of the wider game.

I would suggest that academies should be run on an area by area basis by a dedicated division of the governing body, which should be led by someone who is proven in delivering talent to the game. Areas would be devised and revised around their expected ability to output professional players.

Clubs in or around the academy area can choose to provide funding to the academy. Super League clubs and / or clubs spending over a certain amount on the salary cap would be obligated to provide funding to a minimum level.

The level of funding provided by all clubs funding the area academy in relation to each other would then determine their position in a draft system to sign players when players come to senior age or wish to sign pro contracts. Of course, you can't force a player to sign for a particular club, so there would be a minimum fee based on draft pick position for another club to compensate the drafting club and sign that player.

I'm not 100% of the legal position of such a draft system, but I don't think that this or something like it is impossible to achieve within employment laws.

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Saddened! wrote:
It is the biggest single reason Saints are successful. Salford are a classic example of a savvy group of people identifying a load of misfits and fringe players with talent and assembling something competitive on a budget. They reached the semi final and were brilliant to watch at times, but it's all so short lived. They're losing players to mid-table sides and once Croft moves on they're back to having to do another big rebuild. The strength of those is dictated by the availability of players and eventually they'll have a bad year and go down. That will then kick off a major financial meltdown and it's unlikely they'd ever come back.

There's definitely enough talent around for each team to have their own academy and it doesn't cost much.

As for the replacements, the likes of Featherstone, Leigh, York would all run academies if you required it of them I'd bet. I know Salford want to, they've applied time and time again for the same status as the big clubs. They are desperate to run one and there is definitely the talent around to have a competitive team too.

I really don't see what reducing the number of academies does. If anything it just strengthens the big clubs and weakens the weakest, so you end up the situation we've got now with only three clubs in the division who have ever won it.

Another wild suggestion is the return of town teams. Have regional centres of excellence for the best players in each region and have those drafted into the professional clubs. That means the big clubs can't just sweep up all the talent.


Short lived, relative success is better than none at all. The Saints model simply wouldn’t work for a lot of clubs, imo, in part because it has worked so well for Saints (amongst other things). It’s really hard to shift this level of incumbency.

You could replace the current whipping boy clubs with new, slightly smaller whipping clubs but we’d soon be back to square one.

The draft idea is attractive, but I don’t think it’d stand up to UK employment law.

Fundamentally though, I think this argument always coming back to youth development means nothing will change. It is a symptom rather than a cause of the underlying problem. Suits the big clubs because they’re the winners and suits the small clubs because they can pretend to themselves one day it could be them. Deep down, I know there isn’t the impetus or desire for real change. I’ll just focus on Hull KR, and take the Scottish Football approach of ignoring the existence of the Old Firm.
'Thus I am tormented by my curiosity and humbled by my ignorance.' from History of an Old Bramin, The New York Mirror (A Weekly Journal Devoted to Literature and the Fine Arts), February 16th 1833.
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micktheleyther wrote:
I firmly believe that we need a youth development system that:

  • Ends the big club monopoly on youth development
  • Gives other clubs the opportunity to invest in academies without the full costs associated with running their own systems
  • Encourages all teams to invest healthy and appropriate amounts of money in youth development
  • Rewards clubs suitably with players or compensation for their investment
  • Allows youth players the freedom to sign with the team of their choice when leaving the academy system
  • Involves a neutral authority to look after the interests of both youth players and the overall strategy game in the UK
  • Tailors individual programmes to suit the area in which they are operating

If we're worried that too many academies dilutes the quality of the pathways to the pro game too much, my suggestion is that academies should be decoupled from clubs. The current setup simply grants the top clubs a conveyor belt of talent which makes it easier for those clubs to stay at the top. That isn't in the interests of the wider game.

I would suggest that academies should be run on an area by area basis by a dedicated division of the governing body, which should be led by someone who is proven in delivering talent to the game. Areas would be devised and revised around their expected ability to output professional players.

Clubs in or around the academy area can choose to provide funding to the academy. Super League clubs and / or clubs spending over a certain amount on the salary cap would be obligated to provide funding to a minimum level.

The level of funding provided by all clubs funding the area academy in relation to each other would then determine their position in a draft system to sign players when players come to senior age or wish to sign pro contracts. Of course, you can't force a player to sign for a particular club, so there would be a minimum fee based on draft pick position for another club to compensate the drafting club and sign that player.

I'm not 100% of the legal position of such a draft system, but I don't think that this or something like it is impossible to achieve within employment laws.


So I don't think theres anything in the current system which would currently block any of the aims you outlay, with some minor changes in governance.

I think over the years I have seen there are two major challenges to the current system; funding and the "big" academies bogarting talent.

For the latter, you have to put yourself in the position of a young player, being signed at 16 by a professional club to join their academy. There are probably several factors which go into the decision making process, and then look to influence them.
  • Likelihood of opportunities to go professional
  • Access to coaching and facilities and the quality of them
  • Opportunities and further education away from the game
  • Salary or any other perks the club is offering
There are probably more but probably a good starting point. If you can influence each of these factors, you can assure that clubs can't entirely ringfence the local elite players - or at least give other clubs a better opportunity to be in the conversation.

The going professional factor is the one thats most entrenched and hardest to fight. If you look at Saints, they can point at Roby, Lomax, Percival, Knowles, Davies, Welsby, Bennison (deliberately in age order) to kids they want to sign to show not only the consistency of giving youth opportunities, but how showing the right attitudes and attributes builds into a pathway that doesn't stop at getting to first grade, but all the way through to dream team, England and the leadership teams within the squad. Its taken a huge amount of patience and false dawns for Saints to get into that position. I think it was the SMTM podcast where an agent was criticising clubs for short termism in their approach to recruitment, effectively looking to bay the fans complaining rather than actually building towards a strategy, and it seems youth development is the same way - some years its in to parade in front of the fans, a bad season and needing some big names and they get thrown out the window for old familiar Aussie imports and journeymen (look at how Warrington have treated Dean and Thewliss as an example of this). The problem we have though, is that the franchise system was supposed to resolve this - how many clubs actually took it as an opportunity to do so? Arguably Catalans, and we are starting to see more French youngsters coming through (certainly more than 10 years ago), but struggling to think of anyone else. No amount of draft or regionalisation will solve this problem, and will effectively just hurt our ability as a league to create elite players. Do you think if you handed Warrington Jack Welsby he would be the player he is today? Maybe I am biased but I just don't honestly think you can be sure of it. So all in all, I don't know how you resolve this (though I see how you can break those academies that are actually working in the triopoly).

Access to coaching and facilities, and further education can all be solved with money, so I don't think theres a huge issue with this (though again, it comes to how much time and energy the teams want to put in - I believe Wigan have recently set up their own college to fully integrate the training schedule for their academy and their studies, which is a model football academies use), its just a matter of encouraging teams to spend more (I wouldn't be opposed to the RFL "selling" Marquee tokens, which the RFL can then distribute to poorly performing academies with conditions on improvement - if Warrington want to sign the current Australia National Team, be my guest, but theyll need to fund everyones academy for the next five years to do so).

But on the point of teams putting more effort in, again using Saints as an example, prior to Covid, they would organise a tour of Australia every two years for the academy (and I hope it returns soon). Its a huge amount of work for everyone involved, but is also a massive sales pitch to the kids we want to sign, allows players to get better testing themselves against Aussie clubs, and creates a bond with the club which may or may not help with retention should the player make it (though I can't evidence this ...). There isn't any reason why any other academy cant do the same, but Saints have set this up and put the effort in, outside of the strict boundaries of the funding for elite academies.

People act like the withdrawal of the elite status was the RFL stopping clubs having an academy, but that was more a convenient excuse for the teams doing very little whilst cashing the cheque to then do absolutely nothing. I understand the RFL need to meet strict guidelines for the elite status and the funding and I dont agree that clubs shouldnt expect to pay the full cost of an effective academy (else we go down the RU model of the RFL having more influence over internationals due to having invested in the kids). Giving more money to the failing academies seems contrary (why invest in bad money...) but taking the funding away completely seems contrary too, especially as I think most would agree that it should be mandatory for the 37 clubs to have an academy. As above I like the idea of the RFL building an additional fund to invest into academies but I am sure there are other ways too.
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shinymcshine241 Eddie Hemmings's Wig
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For some clubs they might point at P&R being the limiting factor - and that annual survival is their priority over medium-long term development.

Does this mean perhaps that the franchise model needs investigation again?

Then, isn't the game just repeating the same cycle again....?

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shinymcshine241 wrote:
For some clubs they might point at P&R being the limiting factor - and that annual survival is their priority over medium-long term development.

Does this mean perhaps that the franchise model needs investigation again?

Then, isn't the game just repeating the same cycle again....?


Even in the absence of relegation, 'patience' (for losing a lot) isn't sustainable in even the medium term. Fans and ambitious players will head for the exits anyway. The successful club transitional year (e.g. coming fifth) type of patience is a different thing. Poorer clubs have to prioritise more, inevitably leaving them relatively weak in other areas. As long as we're discussing what is prioritised rather than the underlying disparities and options for a more even competition, SL will remain predictable season to season.
'Thus I am tormented by my curiosity and humbled by my ignorance.' from History of an Old Bramin, The New York Mirror (A Weekly Journal Devoted to Literature and the Fine Arts), February 16th 1833.
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Mild Rover wrote:
Even in the absence of relegation, 'patience' (for losing a lot) isn't sustainable in even the medium term. Fans and ambitious players will head for the exits anyway. The successful club transitional year (e.g. coming fifth) type of patience is a different thing. Poorer clubs have to prioritise more, inevitably leaving them relatively weak in other areas. As long as we're discussing what is prioritised rather than the underlying disparities and options for a more even competition, SL will remain predictable season to season.


I'm curious - who was the last ambitious player developed by a club who was then poached by Wigan/Saints/Leeds? We see overseas players like Jackson Hastings move around, but I think its generally quite rare for homegrown players to jump to those clubs (I think LMS is the only one currently at Saints who was signed from another SL club at the time who was homegrown) - its more common to sign from the Championship.

This may be colloquial but it tends to be the Huddersfield/Hull/Warrington level of those trying to break the triopoly who are more likely to go after other teams developing talent. Wakefield resisted selling Tom Johnstone for ages (and if they didnt have doubts over his fitness, I doubt theyd have hesitated to have kept him this year?) Warrington bid on Truman at Cas last year etc.

Maybe its naivety on my behalf, but the issue sits squarely before players make their first team debut. I don't see any likelihood of Mikey Lewis being signed by Saints (Dodd), Wigan (Smith) or Leeds (Sinfield) and if Hull KR can bring another couple through next year and start building that pathway, it would be a really positive thing. The risks of loss of form and missing out on the playoffs, leading to signing another scrumhalf, and HKR having equally talented players in the next academy group can be mitigated, but understandably really challenging.
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I think the decision to take away Bradford's Academy licence was a striking example of how incompetence blights the game, and thwarts its success. Even setting aside my own feelings about losing one ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak few years, it made no strategic sense. It has always been an absolute production line of talent, with raw recruits coming in to the Bradford first team, and those with added sparkle moving into Super league. It was a win/win.

The rather mealy-mouthed backtracking from the RFL about the licences was welcome but how have we got to a position where our governing body wants to close down established player pathways? I just can't get my head around it.

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Magic Superbeetle wrote:
I'm curious - who was the last ambitious player developed by a club who was then poached by Wigan/Saints/Leeds? We see overseas players like Jackson Hastings move around, but I think its generally quite rare for homegrown players to jump to those clubs (I think LMS is the only one currently at Saints who was signed from another SL club at the time who was homegrown) - its more common to sign from the Championship.

This may be colloquial but it tends to be the Huddersfield/Hull/Warrington level of those trying to break the triopoly who are more likely to go after other teams developing talent. Wakefield resisted selling Tom Johnstone for ages (and if they didnt have doubts over his fitness, I doubt theyd have hesitated to have kept him this year?) Warrington bid on Truman at Cas last year etc.

Maybe its naivety on my behalf, but the issue sits squarely before players make their first team debut. I don't see any likelihood of Mikey Lewis being signed by Saints (Dodd), Wigan (Smith) or Leeds (Sinfield) and if Hull KR can bring another couple through next year and start building that pathway, it would be a really positive thing. The risks of loss of form and missing out on the playoffs, leading to signing another scrumhalf, and HKR having equally talented players in the next academy group can be mitigated, but understandably really challenging.


Good points/questions. Before I answer I should probably acknowledge that my view isn't representative of general Hull KR opinion, from CEO to the vast, vast majority of fans. In fact, it is pretty much the polar opposite.

I guess I am going fair way back to players like Shenton (fairly briefly and trophylessly, admittedly), LMS, Clubb and Tom Briscoe who have retired or will do in the not too distant. They're the ones who spring to mind... then again, I'm getting old and disinterested, and I barely knew who four-time dream teamer Morgan Knowles was until last week. Scott Taylor is the obvious one from a Hull KR perspective - I don't think many would argue against him being the best Hull KR-produced player of the SL era (well, Jon Wilkin obviously - but I mean after our first promotion). There were other factors at play, but not long after the club announced their 'building for the future' strategy for 2012 onwards, he left to immediately win the double with Wigan in 2013.

Maybe it isn't happening as much now, but look at who Hull KR (and for good measure, Hull FC) produced during the decade that followed Taylor's debut.
https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/sport/r ... ue-4212834
https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/sport/r ... 10-4169652

I can't be bothered to check but I don't think there's a full England or GB international in there (like Taylor, Josh Hodgson debuted in 2009). Cas and Wakefield have hardly been prolific either.

Now, if somebody could explain to me why these academies have been so relatively unproductive for so long and that there are realistic steps that they can take to remedy that without cutting 25% off the first team wage bill, or something similarly self defeating, then I'll very happily change my mind. Who wouldn't want a substantial no- or low-cost benefit. But unless or until one of the less well-off clubs makes it work, I'll remain skeptical based on what I've seen these last ~15 years.

Without major (and unlikely) external investment in clubs outside the top group, the only way I can see to have a more compelling pro RL competition on this side of the world is through a fundamental restructure. I hope I'm wrong, because that also seems unlikely.

Edit: Jordan Abdull played for England last year.
Magic Superbeetle wrote:
I'm curious - who was the last ambitious player developed by a club who was then poached by Wigan/Saints/Leeds? We see overseas players like Jackson Hastings move around, but I think its generally quite rare for homegrown players to jump to those clubs (I think LMS is the only one currently at Saints who was signed from another SL club at the time who was homegrown) - its more common to sign from the Championship.

This may be colloquial but it tends to be the Huddersfield/Hull/Warrington level of those trying to break the triopoly who are more likely to go after other teams developing talent. Wakefield resisted selling Tom Johnstone for ages (and if they didnt have doubts over his fitness, I doubt theyd have hesitated to have kept him this year?) Warrington bid on Truman at Cas last year etc.

Maybe its naivety on my behalf, but the issue sits squarely before players make their first team debut. I don't see any likelihood of Mikey Lewis being signed by Saints (Dodd), Wigan (Smith) or Leeds (Sinfield) and if Hull KR can bring another couple through next year and start building that pathway, it would be a really positive thing. The risks of loss of form and missing out on the playoffs, leading to signing another scrumhalf, and HKR having equally talented players in the next academy group can be mitigated, but understandably really challenging.


Good points/questions. Before I answer I should probably acknowledge that my view isn't representative of general Hull KR opinion, from CEO to the vast, vast majority of fans. In fact, it is pretty much the polar opposite.

I guess I am going fair way back to players like Shenton (fairly briefly and trophylessly, admittedly), LMS, Clubb and Tom Briscoe who have retired or will do in the not too distant. They're the ones who spring to mind... then again, I'm getting old and disinterested, and I barely knew who four-time dream teamer Morgan Knowles was until last week. Scott Taylor is the obvious one from a Hull KR perspective - I don't think many would argue against him being the best Hull KR-produced player of the SL era (well, Jon Wilkin obviously - but I mean after our first promotion). There were other factors at play, but not long after the club announced their 'building for the future' strategy for 2012 onwards, he left to immediately win the double with Wigan in 2013.

Maybe it isn't happening as much now, but look at who Hull KR (and for good measure, Hull FC) produced during the decade that followed Taylor's debut.
https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/sport/r ... ue-4212834
https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/sport/r ... 10-4169652

I can't be bothered to check but I don't think there's a full England or GB international in there (like Taylor, Josh Hodgson debuted in 2009). Cas and Wakefield have hardly been prolific either.

Now, if somebody could explain to me why these academies have been so relatively unproductive for so long and that there are realistic steps that they can take to remedy that without cutting 25% off the first team wage bill, or something similarly self defeating, then I'll very happily change my mind. Who wouldn't want a substantial no- or low-cost benefit. But unless or until one of the less well-off clubs makes it work, I'll remain skeptical based on what I've seen these last ~15 years.

Without major (and unlikely) external investment in clubs outside the top group, the only way I can see to have a more compelling pro RL competition on this side of the world is through a fundamental restructure. I hope I'm wrong, because that also seems unlikely.

Edit: Jordan Abdull played for England last year.
'Thus I am tormented by my curiosity and humbled by my ignorance.' from History of an Old Bramin, The New York Mirror (A Weekly Journal Devoted to Literature and the Fine Arts), February 16th 1833.
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Pumpetypump wrote:
I think the decision to take away Bradford's Academy licence was a striking example of how incompetence blights the game, and thwarts its success. Even setting aside my own feelings about losing one ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak few years, it made no strategic sense. It has always been an absolute production line of talent, with raw recruits coming in to the Bradford first team, and those with added sparkle moving into Super league. It was a win/win.

The rather mealy-mouthed backtracking from the RFL about the licences was welcome but how have we got to a position where our governing body wants to close down established player pathways? I just can't get my head around it.


At the risk of sounding like I am defending the decision or the RFL (neither of which I agree with), I do know that Sport England put a lot of emphasis on access to education and quality of facilities and coaching. The RFL additionally put a lot of emphasis on geographical distribution for the sake of the community game. I don't know the Bradford situation but it is entirely possible that during the financial collapses either coaching personal or facilities were degraded? The problem we all have is that it feels like the RFL go out of their way to be as opaque and obtuse as possible, and expect to be able to announce these decisions from on high without any challenge or explanation. IMG seem to be taking this to extremes judging by the "vote" on Wednesday, without even giving the clubs sight on what they're voting on.

The counter argument to the historic production line at Bradford is were now seeing that talent come through at Wakefield with Murphy, Shaw, Bowes, Esah(sp?), Aydin coming through - whose to say if they had come through 15 years ago they wouldnt be on Bradfords books?
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Mild Rover wrote:
Now, if somebody could explain to me why these academies have been so relatively unproductive for so long and that there are realistic steps that they can take to remedy that without cutting 25% off the first team wage bill, or something similarly self defeating, then I'll very happily change my mind. Who wouldn't want a substantial no- or low-cost benefit. But unless or until one of the less well-off clubs makes it work, I'll remain skeptical based on what I've seen these last ~15 years.


That's the million dollar question. I would say based on your response that its about as frequent top clubs poaching junior talent as it is top clubs losing players to RU/ NRL (again not data driven, just going off the conversation we have here) so the poaching argument holds no water - and I suspect that will be a recurring theme of these conversations; every time one of the reasons for not investing time/energy/money in the academy model which certain clubs trot out just doesn't hold.

I fear there is no quick fix. Clubs trying to shortcut have effectively given a few teams over a decades headstart and I dont know how you can erase that without a) damaging the good work the triopoly do and b) without significant investment
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Matches on TV
Thu 16th Feb
SL-M
20:00
Warrington-Leeds
Fri 17th Feb
SL-M
20:00
Leigh-Salford
Sat 18th Feb
SL-M
13:00
Hull KR-Wigan
WCC2023
07:00
Penrith-St.Helens
Thu 23rd Feb
SL-M
20:00
Salford-Hull KR
Fri 24th Feb
SL-M
20:00
Leeds-Hull FC
Sun 26th Feb
SL-M
13:00
Castleford-St.Helens
Thu 2nd Mar
SL-M
20:00
Warrington-Salford
Fri 3rd Mar
SL-M
20:00
St.Helens-Leeds
Thu 9th Mar
SL-M
20:00
Wigan-Catalans
Fri 10th Mar
SL-M
20:00
Huddersfield-Castleford
Sat 19th Nov
WC2022 6 Australia M30-10Samoa M
WWC2022 5 Australia W54-4New Zealand W
This is an inplay table and live positions can change.
Mens Betfred Super League XXVIII ROUND : 1
 PLDFADIFFPTS
Hull FC 0 0 0 0 0
Catalans 0 0 0 0 0
Huddersfield 0 0 0 0 0
Leigh 0 0 0 0 0
St.Helens 0 0 0 0 0
Castleford 0 0 0 0 0
 
Wakefield 0 0 0 0 0
Leeds 0 0 0 0 0
Hull KR 0 0 0 0 0
Warrington 0 0 0 0 0
Salford 0 0 0 0 0
Wigan 0 0 0 0 0
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