Schoey: RFL Academy u-turn the right call

Garry Schofield welcomes the RFL’s decision to restore elite Academy licences to Bradford Bulls, Castleford Tigers and Hull KR after an outpouring of criticism.

I can’t quite believe I’m writing this, but congratulations to the RFL for coming to their senses and having a rethink over taking away the elite Academy licences of Bradford, Castleford and Hull KR.

Those three clubs have been given a chance over the next two years to show they can meet the criteria and join Catalans, Huddersfield, Hull, Leeds, London Broncos, Newcastle, St Helens, Wakefield, Warrington and Wigan in operating a top-level development system.

It’s a long time since such a hornets’ nest has been stirred up in the game, but the original decision to deny those three clubs the best opportunity to develop their own players was baffling.

As so many people have said, we should be trying to expand, not restrict the number of youngsters playing, whether through the Academy system, which the RFL favour, or the community game, which has a really important role and which I am passionate about.

I think it’s important that the two work in tandem and that we ensure there is an alternative route into the professional arena for future Alex Walmsleys and also a place to go for those Academy players who don’t get a first-team deal and could easily turn their back on our great game.

The three clubs at the centre of the row are all based in Rugby League hotbeds.

Player development is not an exact science, and lean spells will always be possible, but Bradford, Castleford and Hull KR have a proven record of doing it over a long number of years and certainly shouldn’t be cut adrift.

Well done to fans for reacting as passionately as they did, and well done to the RFL for listening, taking on board what was said, and doing the right thing.

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