This article first appeared in the April 17th edition of League Express. For articles like this every week, buy League Express every Monday in stores or online at totalrl.com/le.
Richard Marshall was so determined to maintain a reserve team at Halifax this season that he set about helping to fund it himself.
Fax are one of a small handful of clubs running a second tier side in 2017. But while the Super League clubs involved have access to significant central funding, those outside the top flight have to find the money themselves.
Marshall explained: “In pre-season we had to make some tough decisions at Halifax.
“The first-team squad had to take a pay cut, we forged a dual-registration agreement with Salford and we wanted to keep our reserve grade going.
“We dealt with the first two and then I went to the board and said I’d like to run a reserve team again.
“They said that if I did then we’d need to find some funding for it, because it couldn’t come out of the existing sponsors.
“So we invited 20 to 30 local businesses and sponsors and put a presentation to them about the reserves.
“We showed them the benefits of having one, and the five players that had come through last year, put a nice lunch on for them, and Simon Grix and I spoke about the benefits of developing players at Halifax.
“We had Elliott Morris talk to them and give his account of how important it was, and how he’d benefited from it. He’s been one of our best players this season.
“What we wanted to do was sell individually sponsored shirts, so each one has a different logo on the front, and we managed to sell 13 at £1,000 each.
“We had to go to the RFL and ask if we could do individually sponsored shirts, which they allowed us to, and our kit providers EV2 did a fantastic job for us.
“The first time we wore them was in the recent game against the Combined Forces and they look great.
“We haven’t filled shirts 1-13 – some wanted their favourite number like 19, and we’ve still got six shirts available.
“We have a couple of charities and even an individual who put his name on the front.
“We also had a couple of the Academy lads’ parents who wanted to do some sponsorship with us.”
For Marshall, the move is crucial to the club’s long-term future.
“Personally I’m all about player development, and improving players on a weekly and annual basis,” he explained.
“Having a reserve grade gives you a far greater pool of talent.
“Not all of them will make it and that’s clear from the outset. We were lucky to have five come through last year and if we could manage the same again that would be fantastic.
“It provides both competition for places and opportunities for young players.
“Halifax is massive in terms of amateur Rugby League, and we’ve also picked up players that have not quite made it at Super League level – Elliott Morris at Huddersfield and Brandon Moore at Castleford being two examples.
“Some of these players could play Super League at some point.
“We lost Nick Rawsthorne to Hull – and there will always be some collateral damage when you invest.
“Nick was a loss – we wanted to keep hold of him and offered him a deal, but at the same time we will never stand in a player’s way.”
Marshall believes that other clubs should now look at the Halifax model.
“At a time where the salary cap is being increased and everyone is talking that up, I think it’s important to discuss the rewards of running a reserve grade,” he added.
“There is a cost, and it outweighs that £13,000, but it’s worth it.
“If you have a focus and an idea, and want to develop youth, then there is always a way to find it.
“We’re running a reserves team and Keighley and South Wales are too, which is a credit to them.
“You don’t have to run it at the highest level, but it’s not on a shoestring either.
“We have a good environment and train at Calderdale College, which has fantastic facilities.
“With the new marquee player ruling we’re going to have players on big six-figure salaries, but why not limit that and put some investment into having a better depth of talent across the whole competition, and not just in Super League?
“I do understand that it’s a business at the end of the day, but if we’re managing to do it at Halifax then I think lessons can be learned at other clubs.”