FORMER ACADEMY coach Chris Plume says he is delighted to see players moving from Leeds Rhinos’ under-19s to clubs in the lower divisions.
Twelve members of Rhinos’ academy have left the club since the end of last season, including Joe Sanderson, Jack Norfolk and Nyle Flynn who have joined neighbours Hunslet, and Tommy Brierley now at York City Knights.
Plume reckons the ex-Leeds players will all benefit from playing in the semi-professional ranks.
He insisted: “We put a lot of time and effort into these players to give them the chance of playing in the professional game and, if for whatever reason, they don’t make the grade with Leeds Rhinos, we feel they come out of the academy with a good background and knowledge of how to play the game at the highest level.
“It is good to see them signing with clubs in the Championship and Championship One and that strengthens those club and those competitions.”
Of the players moving to south Leeds, Plume said: “We have good relationships with Hunslet and have done for a number of years.
“All three lads who have gone to Hunslet are Leeds lads so it is good to see them staying in the city. Jack Norfolk was our player of the year a couple of years ago and Nyle Flynn and Joe Sanderson were outstanding for us last year so they have got some very good talent there.”
Sanderson will continue at Leeds as a community coach with Rhinos’ foundation.
“For the Academy he was outstanding for us but, at this time it is not right for him to step up to the first team, but we will definitely be watching how he progresses at Hunslet,” Plume added.
“Playing in Championship One will really test these players.
“The under-19s competition is three age groups put together from under-17 through.
“They get some exposure of playing open-age players in pre-season friendlies, but now they have to do that on a regular basis it will test them.
“It will show if they can apply all the background knowledge they have acquired during their time at the Rhinos and hopefully that will help them progress.
“I think it is important to remember that playing in Super League is the pinnacle of the game in this country.
“To make it straight from our academy into the Super League side is a big step.
“Some players may have to go to the Championship to continue their development.
“We have seen in recent years that there are some outstanding players in the Championship and if they continue to progress and develop, they will get their shot at Super League. The fact they can see there is a pathway back into Super League is massive for these players.”
Plume has combined first-team duties with his role of under-19s coach for the last three years, but will now be concentrating on the senior squad after Adrian Morley’s appointment as academy boss.
“I have done nine years with the under-19s and it has been a very enjoyable experience,” Plume said. “A lot of good players have come through in that time.
“We have had a couple of Grand Final appearances, but ultimately it is about producing first-team players and I would like to think we have achieved that on a consistent basis.
“I have been assistant-coach for three years now, but combined with my under-19 duties.
“I now have extra time with the first team.
“And I am really excited about the opportunities that extra time will give me.”