Is the loan system being abused?

Upfront: The League Express Opinion – Mon 9th Aug 2021

From the South Leeds Stadium to Stebonheath Park via Wembley.

Jake Sweeting (pictured) has played only half a dozen games, but it’s certainly been some season for the halfback or fullback.

The 20-year-old has featured in all three divisions as well as helping his club Featherstone win the 1895 Cup by beating York in the final at the national stadium.

Mind you, Sweeting knew a bit about York, having had a spell there the month before.

Last Monday, he played for Castleford, from whom he joined Featherstone ahead of the 2020 campaign, in their 34-16 home Super League defeat by Huddersfield (talk about a club debut which came later than hoped).

And on Sunday, he turned out for Doncaster, his fifth different club of the campaign, in their 24-24 League 1 draw at West Wales Raiders.

His first game of the season was also in the third tier, for Hunslet.

It’s all down to the loan system, which has produced all manner of intriguing moves, and led to quite a few players wearing kits of many colours.

In quite a few instances, things have become quite hard to follow, with players to-ing and fro-ing and some clubs regularly adding to their squad.

For example York – who last week brought in Wigan forward James McDonnell for a second time this season, while halfback Riley Dean was recalled by Warrington and also immediately sent to Dewsbury – have had twelve players on loan this year.

While last week was likely busier than usual because it included deadline day, Covid has clearly had a part to play, with clubs often needing to supplement their squads due to positive cases and others having to isolate.

As a result, the minimum length of loan has come down while the numbers of loan players clubs are permitted has increased.

Having kicked dual-registration into touch, we effectively now have an expanded version of the system.

It’s allowing young players to gain valuable experience, often benefiting both the loaning and receiving club as well as the individual.

But while the loan system in general has its advantages, it also has its problems. For example, are some existing players being denied opportunities because of others arriving on short-term arrangements?

And while clubs are grateful for being able to bolster their options, how hard is it to plan when a player can be recalled at short notice?

Going forward to a time when there is hopefully more normality in terms of life in general as well as Rugby League in particular, it’s something the governing body surely needs to get on top of for the benefit of coaches, players and fans alike.

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