Science of the Rams

On the weekend, this was a colosseum of testosterone. An arena for war chants and every profanity in the book, after another fiercely fought battle in the Championship.

But on Monday, the benches on the circumference of the dressing room at the Tetley’s Stadium, home of the Dewsbury Rams, have a much calmer ambience.

As Kyle Trout and Martyn Reilly address the Oulton Raiders U13s, ahead of the latest of their ‘Rampage Club’ training sessions with local amateur clubs, they inform the budding stars of what the next two hours has in store.

Warm-up, skills-based training on the 3G Pitch, workout in the gym, core strength work in the wrestle room, and then reconvene in the changing rooms for free tickets to a game and a match-day programme.

But that was just an itinerary, that does little justice to the hard work put in by Trout and Reilly, completely off their own backs, as well as popular media manager Steven Downes, that has seen the concept grow beyond recognition.

“I mentioned it last year about running a community scheme,” Trout opens the interview and tells Rugby League World.

“Lee (Greenwood, head coach) then said ‘what about getting local communities in to the club?’ Lee said that me and Martyn could run it alternately, then it just snowballed to being fully booked, to the point where the club and the council are trying to find out ways we can grow this now.”

Reilly adds: “We started off with Siddal U14s, the team Lee used to coach. We put a few photos on social media and loads of clubs were asking us to get on board. We’re at the point now where it’s hard to get teams in, we’ll fit in everyone eventually, but we didn’t expect this to be so big in the community.”

It becomes increasingly clear, after observing to pair lead a session and the listening to their dedication in the interview, that this is not a run-around for young children or a glorified baby-sitting service, this is serious.

A carefully constructed training schedule was delivered to the youngsters, including a foosball-style Rugby League game and a truncated version of Aussie Rules. The pair are clearly incredibly serious about expanding the scheme further, emulated by the three-day Rampage Camp that will take place between 7th and 9th August.

“We only know them when they come, so on the spot we’ve got to judge how we can best spend the time,” Trout says. “If they’re a big set of lads, but they’re not passing the ball about a great deal, we’ll go skill-based stuff. If they are quick, agile athletes, they might be better learning other parts of the game.

“We’ve got a good formula now and we’ve really invested a lot of time into it ourselves over the last few months. We always play a game of two-touch or a foosball game with a rugby ball or Aussie Rules. We think it helps you anticipate the bounce-of-the-ball, because it’s on a different trajectory and spin path.

“It’s good for the mobility, you’re having a laugh, learning your co-ordination and it’s developing core skills of the game in a way that you might not do in your average training session.”

And with the pair, in the eyes of Reilly, operating a smooth good cop, bad cop partnership, their attitude towards the sessions is incredibly professional.

“We treat them like adults, because that’ what the professional game is like,” Reilly explains. “Trouty is big for getting onto the, but I’m more of a push-over than him.

“If you spend every two minutes asking people to listen, we need to be a bit harsh. We’ll just say to them that they don’t have to be here, they’re here because their teammates want to learn.

“I want the ones who want to learn to be able to and we don’t want this to be a mess-about, we want to give them everything we know in such a short space of time.”

Among the two clubs who have engaged with the Rams are Wakefield-based Stanley Rangers and local side Drighlington, where Trout and Reilly started their respective careers.

Trout would go on to play Super League for Wakefield, along with a host of clubs on loan, before joining Dewsbury for a second time ahead of the 2018 season from Sheffield Eagles.

Reilly, likewise, was in the Wakefield Trinity Scholarship, also spending time with Leeds Rhinos Academy, before becoming a Ram from Halifax the same year as Trout.

Despite some similarity in their career paths in combining in the forward pack at the club, the two have contrasting anecdotes of professional intervention in their early careers to draw upon.

“When I started playing as late as 15,” Reilly recalls. “We never had anything like this. Drighlington were in quite a low division. We never had anyone come into our club and it would have been great for us, because we were in a bad place as a club.

“You’ve got clubs now, like Wakefield and Leeds, in our area that really reach out to young people. A lot of professional clubs are building their Foundations, and hopefully we can get to that level, as well, because that’s what we aspire to.”

“That was where it all started for me,” Trout intervenes. “It was on a scheme very similar to this. I was a footballer and I didn’t work out. I just went down to an Easter Camp at Wakefield Wildcats for a couple of days.

“That was the first time I’d ever touched a rugby ball. They asked me who I played for, I didn’t play for anyone, so I went down to Stanley Rangers and just carried on right through to the professional ranks.

“When I was at Wakefield, working with the Foundation was something you were told to do, this is totally different. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve got kids now, or because Martyn has done this for years at Wakefield and Leeds, but I just see how my kids react to their coaches and how they do to me. It’s just another voice.

“It’s the same as any learning device in schools. If you have a fresh face that you’re not used to, you pay more attention. To add to that, I think kids will take in more detail because we’re players. I tend to see that, sometimes, they listen more to players than coaches, because we’re active on the field in the modern game.

“But the first thing we say to them is not to be quiet, to forget being judged and just express themselves. We’re not bothered how many dropped balls there are, as long as they’re talking.

“A lot of people learn by mistakes and doing it themselves, we want to take that pressure away. It’s an outlet for fun and also an arena for being able to be corrected properly.”

That style of coaching that the pair have adopted has clearly left a mark on a vast majority of youngsters who have experienced their coaching, with one particular touching narrative being that of one of Rams’ newest supporters.

“A Shaw Cross Sharks player, called Toby, came to a Monday night Rampage Club,” Reilly begins. “He was a massive Leeds Rhinos fan and had been for years.

“We have him a free ticket to the game, he came along, and then a couple of weeks later, his mum came into the shop to get a shirt.

She spoke to the woman in the shop and mentioned that he came along to the Rampage Club, and hadn’t been back to Leeds Rhinos since.

“He’d asked for that shirt for his birthday. Steve (Downes) jumped on it and told me and Trouty. We located the mum who it was, messaged her and asked him to come and meet all the players on a training night, bring in his shirt, get it signed for his birthday and show him round.

“We did a piece about him on the website and he watched us train, got his photo taken with us all. We made a big deal out of it and, sometimes, the bigger clubs in Super League can’t do that.

And there’s what Trout and Reilly are trying to capture. They’re at Dewsbury Rams, of course, it’s raw. This isn’t the bright lights of Super League, not do they pretend they are.

This isn’t a community foundation that will accept invitations on merit only, or for their own hidden gain. Yes, they give away free tickets and a programme.

Yes, they want to build participation in the local area. Not for their own benefit, primarily because it’s become a drive they have become heavily invested in.

We want them to make good memories, and the ideal goal is to build the sport, our fan base and participation levels, but it’s about the short-term as well,” Trout says.

“We’d like to get kids involved who have never experienced the game before. What better place to do it, as well, than at our facilities, which is used by Wakefield Trinity, Batley Bulldogs, Featherstone Rovers, Huddersfield Giants Academy and also Bradford City’s Academy.

“Hopefully we can provide a platform for them to one day turn professional, just like I had done with Wakefield all those years ago.”

“That’s the end goal, but right now, we’re not asking for money or anything, it’s not about that. It’s about us giving us as much as we can,” Reilly states, as you can feel the passion in his voice.

“That’s the message we want to get out there, come to Dewsbury. Ring us up, we’re not making empty promises saying we can coach you all, but we can make as much as we want happen.

“We’re all trying to push this and we’re arranging meetings with other foundations to see what they’re doing. This can be as big as me and Trouty make it, and we want this to be big.

“The stuff we’ve achieved already from having no community scheme, to going to this, is massive. It’s gone from a Monday night to being a respected community scheme in a matter of months.”