Both Super League and the Rugby Football League have confirmed a mandatory Reserve grade competition for 2020.
The 11 current English Super League clubs will compete in the competition, along with both Widnes and Bradford of the Championship, with both clubs having Category 1 funded Academies. There have also been five further applications from lower league clubs.
The launch of a proper Reserve grade also sees a change in the Academies, which will become an under-18s comp as of next season. The dual reg and loan systems however remain unaffected.
Hull FC and Wakefield are the only Super League clubs to have run Reserve sides this season, and Lee Radford, a big fan of the concept, is delighted to see it confirmed.
“I know from personal playing experience the value of reserve team rugby, and I’ve also seen it at Hull in the last few years,” he explained.
“I signed for Bradford at 18 but didn’t become a regular first-teamer until 22 or 23, and without the years I had in reserves learning my trade, I might have been left in the wings.
“It gave me the grounding for first-team football, playing against some experienced Super League players. It also means clubs won’t be having to make difficult decisions on 19-year-olds, when some players – especially in the pack – tend to develop a bit later.
“I look at lads at Hull FC like Jamie Shaul, Chris Green and this season Kieran Buchanan, who have all benefited from reserve team rugby before getting their first-team chance.”
The Reserve grade competition will be administrated by the RFL in 2020 with the fixtures brought out in winter.
A long overdue confirmation for Super League clubs, it’s better late than never, with Robert Elstone finally succeeding where others have failed.
“Super League is about superstars – players that get us on the edge of our seats, players that make our jaws drop, players that inspire us,” he said.
“Our success will depend on our ability to find, nurture and create the superstars of tomorrow. It’s why development pathways like this are so critical to the future success of the game.
“It is essential that we offer appropriate challenges to our young players on their journeys into Super League. A well-managed, resourced and competitive reserve grade will provide that.”