Hull debutant calls for return of reserve-grade rugby

Ben McNamara has stressed the importance of reserve grade’s return after numerous young stars made a name for themselves in Super League last week.

The Hull FC starlet was one of many young talents who shone last week in a round dubbed as ‘SLNextGen’.

Warrington, Salford, Leeds and Wigan all gave numerous debutants a chance to impress as they rested players for the Challenge Cup. For some, it was their first game in months after reserve grade was cancelled earlier this year because of Covid.

But the competition is set to be scrapped next season as a cost-cutting measure, which will help clubs claw back losses on Sky rebates, which are set to be £266,000 each.

Dual-registration is also set to be abolished due to Covid-related matters as moving players in and out of different bubbles brings added risk.

Instead, the likes of McNamara will instead play in an Under-19s competition, which will see him play against players younger than himself.

“From what I know reserve grade won’t be back until 2022 and the Academy is being changed to 19s again, which would make me available.

“But watching the games, there are just too many quality players to not have a reserve-grade division, so at least if you’re not in the 17 you’re playing another high quality game every week against players older than you or at the same stage of their careers.

“There’s still a lot you can get from playing from Academy. But there will be players in it next year that will be two, nearly three years younger and to really test yourself you need to be playing against men that are older than you.”

McNamara’s focus is to establish himself in Hull’s senior squad after a try-scoring debut in victory over Castleford on Thursday.

The 18-year-old came off the bench and played in the halves, scoring a crucial second-half try.

“I found out the morning of the game that I was playing,” he said.

“I woke up to my phone ringing. I knew what it was straight away. I got butterflies and that nervous energy.

“As soon as I found out I tried to plan it and I went for a walk to manage the nerves.

“As soon as I got off the phone I rang dad (Steve McNamara). He was excited for me and, it’s a shame he couldn’t come and watch it. Mum couldn’t come too. He didn’t say much, just to go out and enjoy it, play with energy and a smile.

“I’m obviously really pleased, but it’s just a start. I want to keep myself grounded, keep working hard and become a week-to-week regular for the team.

“It is going to be difficult, because it’s a deep squad, but I’m just going to have to get my head down. If I keep proving myself in training and in games then hopefully the chances will come.”

The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.