Daryl Powell insists British Rugby League has lost many talented young players forever due to the failure to have a proper reserve-grade system, and he believes its return can benefit Castleford’s youngsters enormously.
The Tigers are one of many sides that will operate with a reserve team for the first time for several years in 2020, after the RFL’s decision to make the competition mandatory again for any side with a top-level Academy.
And Powell, a keen advocate of junior development, told League Express: “I think you’re bound to have lost some young players.
“We lost the art of trying to develop players naturally through the age grades. I don’t think anyone is suggesting reserves will be perfect for the first 12 to 18 months, but they need to be playing. They need to know that when they get into a game of Super League, they’ve got everything under their belt to compete.”
Powell cited young forward Jacques O’Neill, who made his breakthrough in the Tigers’ first-team last year, as a prime example of how there being nothing between under-19s and first-team rugby is seriously harming young players’ chances of making the grade.
“It’s been a huge miss,” he said of reserves.
“As an example, Jacques O’Neill only played five or six games in first-team last year, and he had no lead into it. We’re asking a young kid who can’t play under-19s because he’s too old, and we couldn’t get him out on dual-registration, to be thrown straight into Super League and pull up okay. Now he did well, but that won’t always be the case.
“I think Jacques did superb in the circumstances, and there are lads like Joe Summers – who has been the standout of our young kids in pre-season – who could benefit from reserves massively this year. He’s been very consistent and he looks strong. Reserves will only help guys like him.”
Powell will field a mix of youth and experience in Thursday’s opening pre-season game against Bradford – where Tigers fans will see a number of new recruits making their unofficial Castleford debuts.
He said: “It’ll be a mixed team but the starting team will be strong. Danny Richardson, Derrell Olpherts and Tyla Hepi will be involved. There are established first-teasers like Jesse Sene-Lefao and Peter Mata’utia in there, and Greg Eden will be at fullback, so it will certainly be strong.”