The continued success of the First Utility Super League Academy system is highlighted by the results of the 2015 Academy Accreditation Report.
A record six clubs have been assessed as ‘Outstanding’ in 2015 – four more than in 2014 – by the independent accreditation process, which monitors the performance and progression of the 11 UK-based Super League clubs’ junior development programmes.
St Helens and Wigan have retained their ‘Outstanding’ rating and have been joined in 2015 by Hull FC, Leeds Rhinos, Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings
An evaluation of ‘Outstanding’ represents a level of performance which exemplifies best practice and implies that these very high levels of performance are sustainable and will be maintained.
RFL Director of Performance and Coaching Jon Roberts said: “I would like to congratulate the six clubs who have achieved an ‘Outstanding’ rating and thank all the other clubs who have made significant improvements over the last 12 months.
“The quality and quantity of the player supply coming through the Academies has never been higher and both the clubs and the England programmes are feeling the benefit at all levels.
“All the clubs have embraced the accreditation process and co-operated fully with the assessors as part of a process that is helping drive standards across the whole competition.”
This is the fifth year that the Super League Academy accreditation audit has taken place. The process is focused on three key areas: quality of leadership and management; how well Academies meet the needs of players; and the delivery of the player development system.
The findings of the Academy accreditation audit are as follows:
Rating: Needs improvement
Castleford Tigers have made positive steps over the last year, including investment in both facilities and staffing. The club has made progress in relation to meeting the needs of its players and its delivery system. Progress includes improved talent identification, strengthening of staffing numbers, player review process and the development of an Academy leadership group. To improve further, Castleford Tigers are developing and optimising links with a local college that will enable players to access a full-time environment, whilst undertaking their preferred study options. Feedback from parents is positive whilst the club have embraced the Embed the Pathway programme.
Huddersfield Giants have made significant progress since the last accreditation and have started to implement and embed some outstanding processes, which will enhance the club’s reputation of a ‘good’ Academ The management and youth leaders have invested heavily into the process, programmes and systems and this has enabled them to achieve outstanding marks in two out of the three areas of their delivery. Their full-time training, underpinning knowledge and education programmes will further accelerate the players’ progression and development within the club’s Academy system, which will increase players’ opportunities in gravitating towards the first team and Super League.
Hull FC have continually progressed over the years of accreditation and have invested in staffing and infrastructure of the Academy that has now seen them attain an ‘outstanding’ status. They are based at their training facilities at Bishop Burton College which has a positive impact on the development of the players and their overall experience. They offer excellent educational opportunities complemented with their full-time programme of Rugby League that will give players an accelerated and opportunistic pathway to the club’s first team, which is supported by all major stakeholders.
Hull KR have made continued improvements in their Academy system over the last two years and this has seen them achieve an improved overall rating of ‘good’. They have improved links with their educational provider Archbishop Sentamu Academy, which allows an increase in players’ opportunities through more full -time provision. This will in turn accelerate their advancement as players. There is a clear strategy and focus, supported by senior leaders at the club, to unearth talent within Rugby League and provide them with opportunities through to the first team.
Leeds Rhinos have worked hard and addressed last year’s issues, to return them back to an ‘outstanding’ Academy, having many good practices and foundations. There are links with Leeds Beckett University which will further enhance the delivery and methods within the club. The leaders of the club fully support and buy into the strategic delivery plan of the Academy. There is a clear ethos and culture at the club, which extends through to the academy. Leeds have a clear vision and direction in which to allow players within their Academy system to reach their first team.
St Helens have continued being an ‘outstanding’ Academy since the inception of the accreditation process. They have a clear pathway and development strategy through the Academy to the first team and pride themselves on producing players from their junior ranks. The continuity of experienced staff and the commitment from the management team creates a dynamic performance environment enabling the programme to maximise player development models. This has seen a continued progression of junior players gravitating into the full-time squad, demonstrating a club that rewards committed development with opportunity. The club has commenced further investment into facilities to enhance the opportunities presented to players.
SALFORD RED DEVILS
Salford Red Devils have implemented some improvements within their system from the previous report and responded to some areas highlighted for improvement. There has been improved facilities and investment in staff in key areas for players to develop through the Academy and there is a committed and passionate staff. However, there are still areas that need addressing in order to allow the Academy to progress up the ratings ladder. Some of these issues should be able to be addressed before the next assessment, which allow the club to attain higher grades.
WAKEFIELD TRINITY WILDCATS
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats have continually progressed and developed their delivery and systems that has seen them attain an overall rating of a ‘good’ Academy. They have recently agreed an extended programme of educational delivery that will allow players to seek their preferred educational route, whilst training full time. The club are making their Academy a priority for their business and those expectations run through the club from senior stakeholders. There is a real desire to produce more locally produced players for the first team from within the club’s own Academy system.
Warrington Wolves have continued to make progress and this has seen them attaining the ‘outstanding’ Academy status. This has come through further investment and targeted development of the infrastructure, systems and facilities that support the players’ development. All stakeholders are actively involved in, and fully behind, the philosophy of the club producing home-grown players resulting in an increase in the number of players being promoted to the first team squad and playing for the first team. The clearly-defined systems and processes in place will ultimately advance opportunities for players in the Academy to follow the same pathway.
Widnes Vikings have continued their journey and investment into their Academy and have been rewarded by receiving the status of an ‘outstanding’ Academy. There is a fully committed staff and management team, which buy into the process and have a clear strategic plan that places a major emphasis of seeing more Academy-produced players within their first team squad. The Widnes Vikings educational offer and full-time training creates opportunities for players to progress to first team level an achievement attained recently by a number of their Academy players. The programme in place also ensures that the educational attainment provides players with long term life opportunities beyond Rugby League.
Wigan Warriors have continued being an ‘outstanding’ Academy. The club’s attitude to ‘Make Our Best Better’ runs through all departments and has seen the Academy grow stronger over the last 12 months. There is a strong culture running through the club and players coming through the ranks of the Academy to first team have been of a consistently high standard, reflected by the number that excel when introduced to the first team. Wigan Warriors’ 2015 strategy places a clear importance on linking the club’s Youth Development, Education and Community Team to work as one. This shared vision demonstrates a fully inclusive approach to developing young players.