Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity granted Elite Academy licence but Castleford Tigers 'devastated' after their application is refused

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Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity have both been awarded a licence to run an elite academy from 2022-2027, but Castleford Tigers have been left in shock after their application was rejected.

The 10 clubs awarded a licence are: Catalans Dragons, Huddersfield Giants, Hull FC, Leeds Rhinos, London Broncos, Newcastle Thunder, St Helens, Wakefield Trinity, Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors.

In a statement, Tigers said they were “devastated” to miss out.

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The statement said: “This news comes following a lengthy application process which included a 2,000-page document that was submitted by the club.

Alex Sutcliffe is among players who have graduated to Leeds Rhinos' first team from their academy. Picture by Steve Riding.Alex Sutcliffe is among players who have graduated to Leeds Rhinos' first team from their academy. Picture by Steve Riding.
Alex Sutcliffe is among players who have graduated to Leeds Rhinos' first team from their academy. Picture by Steve Riding.

“The early feedback given as to the reasons that Castleford Tigers has not been awarded an Elite Academy Licence is due to a large number of clubs in a small geographical location and that since 2014 the club has been bottom of the league for producing first team players.

“However, the process has not taken into account the appearances of our long-standing home-grown Academy talent such as Michael Shenton, Adam Milner, Nathan Massey, Oliver Holmes, James Clare, Greg Eden and Liam Watts, just to name some of the players currently within the Castleford first team setup.

“The application process also did not consider that we have 70-plus young players on our current Scholarship and Academy programmes, alongside the Tigers Talent Pathway which continues to grow from strength to strength and enables a route for players from under-12s onwards.

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“Throughout the last Academy process, the club has invested millions of pounds into the club’s youth systems and structures.

“As a result of this, we are determined to develop a hybrid system alongside our current College of Rugby League and Elite Player Pathways, details of this will be announced in due course.”

There was never any real doubt Rhinos’ application would be granted, but Trinity said they were “thrilled” at their success.

Tigers were among five clubs whose bid was turned down.

A maximum of 12 licences could have been awarded, with up to nine of those going to heartland clubs.

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A licence was guaranteed to two clubs from emerging areas and one in France.

The RFL say the rationale behind that was one, “to ensure academies are operated sensitively and proportionately to the continuing good health of the community game; two, that the number of players selected for academies is proportionate to the number of players within the community game at the relevant age and that the players selected have a genuine opportunity of progressing into the Super League and national teams and three, that the talent pool is extended beyond the traditional heartland of the sport”.

The RFL said: “Clubs whose applications were unsuccessful have been provided with detailed feedback on areas for improvement and advised that they will be able to reapply in 2024.

“These clubs will be able to operate Development Academies which are run in conjunction with further education institutions and play in the highly competitive Colleges competition.

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“This does not cause the same level of disruption to the community game, with matches played over the winter/spring season.

“Super League clubs will be required to run Reserves when that competition returns in 2022 and other clubs will have the option of applying to do so.

“The 2021 Academy season, which began in a revised format last weekend, will continue as scheduled.”