Leigh Centurions have confirmed that they will not be running a reserve grade side in 2016 after two hugely successful years of doing so.
They won the reserves Grand Final last year and only narrowly lost out to Dewsbury this year, but they said that after careful consideration between directors and coaching staff, they will be channelling their efforts into winning promotion to Super League.
“The Reserves have had two good seasons since I returned to the Club, winning the league on both occasions and the grand final last year, only to narrowly miss out in the dying seconds of this year’s grand final and everybody associated with that should be extremely proud,” said Leigh’s head of rugby, Derek Beaumont, who confirmed that they had been invited to joining in with the revival of the reserve structure some Super League clubs are involved in for next year.
“The reserves area is currently in transition with some of the Super League clubs looking to run with the old style reserve team structure. We have been involved in discussions relating to this and were honoured to be invited to compete within that format. However, that will be an extremely tough competition and one that at this present time we couldn’t do justice.”
Beaumont added: “The alternative to that, continuing as this year, wasn’t an option that we felt provided us with what we would have needed, in particular bringing back rested or injured players. A number of our reserves players have attracted attention from Championship and Championship One clubs who are offering them contracts and it would be wrong to prevent them from taking those opportunities to play a higher level of rugby.”
He continued: “I am fully aware of the need to build a Club from the bottom up with academies and scholarships and internally we are assessing the viability of the three RFL academy structures moving forward. As an aspiring Championship club knocking on the door of Super League we need to assess the best medium to long term pathway, rather than ticking a short term box which has often been proven to limit the development of our younger players whilst also hindering the local community game which is so important to us.
“If you get relegated from Super League there is a protection where you can continue with the format so that has to be our primary focus. Irrespective of our central funding for next year this was our decision in the best interests of the Club.
“The youngsters we felt were the most promising in terms of making our first grade were given full-time contracts and are on loan where we maintain an interest in them. To this end Cameron Pitman, Chris Hankinson and Jamie Tracey are all on season long loans to Barrow Raiders in 2016. We will certainly keep our eyes on those players that now have to look elsewhere and those that have already been offered contracts in the professional game.”
Beaumont did accept that the decision may not go down to well, but said the decision is the right one moving forward for the club.
“Sometimes in life and business you have to take tough decisions that won’t always be popular but what is important is that you make the right one for the business at that time, removing all emotion and that I believe is what we have done on this occasion.
“As for (reserve coach Paul Anderson) Ando, well he will remain in his position in the coaching team with the first grade and spend more time on that aspect of the business whilst keeping in touch with the reserves level at Super League and if one continues in the Championship. That way when we are in a position to field a Super League reserves side he will be very much still well connected at that level.”