Wales Rugby League have appointed Great Britain, Hull FC and Castleford legend Lee Crooks as their new U16’s head coach.
The 55-year-old, who works at the City of Hull Academy and also as Director of Rugby at St Mary’s College in the city, will combine his new role with his current positions to aid the development of young players in Wales.
Crooks brings a plethora of experience from his playing career, having played for Hull FC, Leeds and Castleford and also Down Under with Wests Magpies and Balmain Tigers. In total he racked up 526 professional club appearances, scoring 76 tries, kicking 1,057 goals and 15 drop-goals for a total of 2,415 points in a decorated playing career.
He also played 19 times for Great Britain touring Australia with the Lions in 1984, 1988 and 1992, and played once for England in 1992 against Wales in Swansea in a 36-11 win.
Post-retirement, Crooks was head coach at Keighley and York, while also being assistant at Hull Kingston Rovers. He later took up a post at the RFL in their talent identification programme for eight years, working closely with the England youth sides.
Since then, Crooks has had brief spells at head coach of the Serbian national team, regional Academy Manager in the North East to boot the development of the Newcastle Thunder set-up, before returning to work in the new city, with his new venture an exciting proposition for him.
“This is a great honour for me, I’m very privileged to be accepted into the role as I know that there were a lot of good applicants,” Crooks said.
“What I want to do now is to continue the success of the Wales under 16s programme and I know my target is really to get the Welsh lads ready for the under 19s programme.
“I’m a skills-based coach and my role is to get all players competent in their relevant positions. I’m not structure-based, I do have a framework, but I like players to express themselves and see what they can do.
“I also know that getting Welsh players into Super League sides is vital for the full Welsh international side. I’ve a lot of connections throughout the game, especially in youth RL, so if we have some amazing talent in Wales, I will point them in the right direction, not just in City of Hull Academy but all round the country, I’ll distribute them across the game.
“The more Welsh players we can get across the game, the better for the future of Wales RL. I’ll be aiming to have lads from Wales who are new to the game as well as heritage players, as it’s important to get them on the WRL ladder straight away. The better the team we have, the more we can compete against nations like England and France.
“I have a lot of experience at coaching at junior level. I’ve had successes and made errors but I’ve always ensured that I’ve learned a lot from any errors I’ve made, so all of this will help WRL, the players, and those who are part of the coaching team. I can’t wait to get started in the new year.”