Leeds Rhinos’ chief Gary Hetherington chief reverses his stance on reserve-grade competition
LEEDS RHINOS will support the reintroduction of a reserve grade competition, providing it is used to develop young players rather than “stockpile” those not good enough for first team rugby.
Reserve sides, or ‘A’ teams, were scrapped by most clubs several years ago, but pressure has been mounting for them to be reinstated. A meeting of Super League chief executives has backed a mandatory reserve competition, to begin in 2020, but that has yet to be ratified by the Rugby Football League.
Rhinos have been against reserve sides in the past, arguing the academy should be used as the level below first team, but chief executive Gary Hetherington confirmed he supports the new proposal which would see the academy age group reduced from under-19 to under-18, with a reserve competition being run above that.
He believes if players are not ready to enter a first-team squad by the age of 20 they should be “released to the wider game”, to provide players for Championship, League One and community clubs, but Hetherington admitted some players over academy age – including those who take up the sport without playing at junior level, rugby union players or students – who could benefit from reserve -evel experience.
“If it is done in the right spirit and with the right intentions it can play a role in helping players’ transition into professional and elite rugby league,” he said. “It needs to be looked upon purely as a development team, not used to stockpile 20, 21 or 22-year-old players. It needs to be a team full of players who have come out of the academy and need another year to develop before going into the first team.
“Alex Sutcliffe is an example of that. Dan Waite-Pullan is another, as is Josh Jordan-Roberts who was with us and is now doing well at York.”