Leeds Rhinos have welcomed a Rugby Football League review which has rated the club’s academy as “outstanding”.
The grading represents a level of performance which exemplifies best practice. It also implies these very high levels of performance are sustainable and will be maintained.
Rhinos’ academy is responsible for players aged 14 to 19 and includes the under-16s and under-19s teams.
The annual RFL assessment is a way of measuring clubs against their rivals and also setting standards to improve the coaching of young players across the game.
Rhinos head of youth development Simon Bell said: “We are delighted to have achieved an outstanding rating again for our academy.
“We have done a great deal of work over the past year to build on our strong performance last year and take the youth development programme forward.
“There are still areas we need to improve on and the report has been useful in highlighting those areas with a particular reference to post-18 student recruitment that we can look at moving forward.
“Importantly for us as a club, it was gratifying to see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes in looking after the young players both on the field and in the classroom being recognised. We aim to develop young men, not just rugby players.”
Bell also paid tribute to former academy boss and assistant-coach Chris Plume, who left his full-time role with the club last month.
He said: “On behalf of everyone associated with the academy I would like to thank him for his unstinting efforts and commitment to the young players at our club.
“We have exciting times ahead with Rob Burrow set to join our coaching team next season and we look forward to the future with confidence.”
The review found Rhinos had improved in a number of areas over the past 12 months, highlighting the development of an outstanding talent identification system which has been aided by the appointment of former player Chev Walker to the coaching team.
Rhinos’ work with Leeds Beckett University and the use of Phd students to create ground-breaking research on young elite players was another key development factor.
Following recommendations from the 2016 review, the academy has increased the number of staff this year including the appointment of former Rhinos and Great Britain player Adrian Morley. Rhinos now work with 37 ambassadorial clubs, with a player from the academy or first team making regular visits.
The review also reported that the club is clear about the value and importance of education and the off-field development of each individual.
Players are supported throughout exam periods and there is a system in place to help those who are leaving the academy.
That includes education advice and support for players to move to other clubs and teams in other leagues.