TONY SMITH says the British game must work to develop more top players instead of worrying about losing talent to Australia.
The Hull FC coach is the most experienced chief in Super League, leading Huddersfield Giants, Leeds Rhinos, Warrington Wolves and Hull KR in a career now stretching past two decades, and he has also coached the England and Great Britain national teams.
Super League’s stature has got no closer to the NRL’s across that period of time, with English talent continuing to be attracted by the far greater riches available Down Under.
John Bateman recently left Wigan Warriors for a second spell in Australia at Wests Tigers, while Newcastle Knights have signed up two of England’s best young players, Will Pryce and Kai Pearce-Paul from Huddersfield Giants and Wigan respectively, for the 2024 season.
Smith is keen to improve the youth development at his new club Hull, but he believes it should be a priority for the whole game.
“It’s really important for us to get the youth coming through, but not only important for our club, it’s important for the British game that we are developing more talent coming through,” Smith told League Express.
“We’re losing some of that talent to Australia from time to time, but our challenge isn’t necessarily to stop that from happening; we’ve got to just keep producing more young players. That’s got to be the focus of the British game.
“We can’t match the finances of Australia at the moment so there’s no point whingeing about it.
“Unless we can get our game as financially healthy as theirs, some of our top players will always decide to go and play in Australia. We’ve just got to face up to that.
“In the meantime, while we can’t match them financially, we’ve got to just make sure we’re producing and replacing the ones that do go.
“The sooner we embrace that in this part of the world and accept it, the more likely we are to do something about producing more players.
“We need to come up with a good plan so we are producing more young players and get better at that at every club, not just our club, but right throughout the whole sport.”