City of Hull Academy director urges clubs to look at their model

The man in charge of the City of Hull Academy has urged clubs who are struggling with their own Academy systems to consider following in their footsteps after a successful second season for the project.

Met with much criticism in the city when it was announced the two Hull clubs would merge their junior setups, the City of Hull Academy was this year rated ‘Outstanding’ by the RFL, with their under-19s side also reaching the play-off semi-finals.

And Danny Wilson, the man who heads up the Academy, told League Express that the success of the project means other clubs should be wise to consider the possibility.

“We understand that clubs like Wigan, St Helens and Leeds who have great Academies will be reluctant to follow what we’re doing – but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea,” he said.

“We’re all in the same pool for talent at the end of the day. I’d encourage other clubs at least have a look at it and use us as an example. If it works, great, if not that’s fine – but it’s a pathway we think we’ve shown can have some success.”

However, Wilson has admitted that the Academy is facing somewhat of a numbers crisis in the city – citing some unnerving figures about the players at junior level the Academy has to choose from.

“Government statistics say numbers are falling in sport and Rugby League is no different,” he said. “People say Hull is a hotbed of talent but it’s not that right now – due to numbers and the people dropping off playing the game.

“I know there’s only 120 player at one age group in Hull, for example. There’s a lot of good volunteers in the city, but they need that support. We need to make sure we tackle that and get Hull back to being that hotbed of the sport people think it is.”

However, Wilson is confident the Academy can buck the grim statistics and continue to improve the production line to both Super League clubs.

“Our vision is to be the blueprint of talent pathway,” he said.

“Ideally long-term, we would like – and we believe we can – to develop first-team players to such a level where both squads are 40 or 50 per cent comprised of local talent, to allow you to spend the other section of the cap on world-class players from elsewhere.

“George Williams has come through Wigan’s system and become a marquee player – we’d love to be able to produce someone that fits that bill in the coming years.”