WIGAN WARRIORS head coach Matt Peet has called for the improvement of reserve-grade rugby to be made a top priority.
Peet has long been a backer of Reserves, which returned in 2022 after a two-year hiatus during the Covid pandemic.
Wigan triumphed unbeaten in the Reserves league last term, winning all 13 regular-season matches before defeating Wakefield Trinity in the Grand Final.
But there were a number of blow-out scores included – a 100-0 victory over Castleford Tigers the biggest – and an irregular calendar with weeks between each game.
Peet said: “It’s better than nothing but it’s miles off. We need to keep pushing that forward as a game.
“I think everyone agrees that the most intense standard below first grade should be reserve grade. At the moment that’s not the case and I’d put that right at the top of the list for what the game needs to be striving for in the next few years.
“The better the reserve grade, the better prepared players will be when they get on the big stage.”
Wigan will continue to utilise the loan and dual-registration systems this season to give further playing opportunities to fringe and developing first-team players.
There were five Warriors players involved in one Championship match alone the weekend before last, when Zach Eckersley, Ramon Silva and Harvie Hill helped London Broncos to a win over a Whitehaven side that had Jacob Douglas and Junior Nsemba as try-scorers.
And last week Wigan announced a dual-registration deal with League One club Oldham for the 2023 season.
Peet said: “We’ve got a good relationship with Oldham and with Stu (Littler, Oldham head coach) in particular. That gives an opportunity particularly to our younger first-team players.
“We’ve got pretty much a 30-man squad, so when everyone is fit and healthy and there are players that needs games. The Reserves programme isn’t where it needs to be, so we have to look each week and month about each player and the best opportunity for them, whether that’s loan, playing reserve grade or in this case dual-registration.”
Peet says using the three different systems is “very labour-intensive” on the club.
“Say you’ve got 15 players not playing – it could be more, it could be less – to try and find the best possible opportunity for them on a weekly basis and fit them into other people’s training programmes and into their teams and gel with their players as best you can; it could be a lot simpler,” he said.
“If we had a regular (Reserves) pathway, playing in the Wigan shirt in the Wigan way in competitive games every week, it would give our coaches more opportunity to work with them.”