Twelve coaches, twelve opinions, one topic – reserves

There are so many things up in the air in Rugby League currently that trying to pick one out is pretty difficult.

But one area of the game that has been getting more attention than most recently is reserve grade, with a number of high-profile clubs pulling out of the competition while others have decided to sign up.

So, our reporters at TotalRL decided to get the view of every single Super League coach on the matter. This is the result.

Daryl Powell – Castleford Tigers: “I’m happy with the dual-reg links as we’ve got a good relationship with Halifax. But it’s not quite right for me. We have to have a reserve comp; we’re getting to the end of the year when it’s crucial, and you’ve got players who don’t play. It’s terrible. I’d absolutely support it as a coach. There may be people at the club who speak differently but as a coach, it’s a must for me.

Steve McNamara – Catalans Dragons: Our reserve side began in the first week of December. It would be very difficult and that’s something that needs to be addressed and looked at properly.

Rick Stone – Huddersfield Giants: “Ideally if every club had enough players and money you’d have reserve grade, but I understand there are restrictions there. In a perfect world, you’d have reserve grade, but you’d need around 50 players to run two teams.”

Lee Radford – Hull FC: Every coach is banging the drum. It’s more difficult to bring players in from overseas yet we’re making it more difficult for 19-year-olds to play first-team. We’re double-ending ourselves and we’ve got to get it fixed up. We had to disband ours because we didn’t know when we were playing – that’s not good. I’d give up a quota spot for week in, week out reserve rugby. Let’s do it – I think the majority of coaches are now ready to support it.

Tim Sheens – Hull Kingston Rovers: “There definitely needs to be a development game somewhere between Academy Grade and Super League. As a coach, I’d say that yes, there should be two teams, how it’s run I’m not sure but in principle, I think there should be. Most the coaches I know would love to have their guys playing every week and give them another option for reserve grade. I’m not speaking for Hull KR here, but for myself, I think a second team would be very good value.

Brian McDermott – Leeds Rhinos: “It’s not the answer. It may help, but the 19s help, dual-registration has its benefits, but it’s not the answer,” said McDermott.
“The answer is to make the gene pool bigger. Is reserve grade a better way of producing better junior players, or is it 16s, or 18s or 19s? You go debate every one of those and all conclusions will lead you to the same thing, that we don’t have enough 14-year-olds playing in good enough competitions in this country. All conclusions will lead to that. Go fix that up and get more of them playing and not having that drop-off.”

Ian Watson – Salford Red Devils: “I want it back. I thought the way it was run years ago was really good. It was a ground school before because you were playing men. There’s a big step currently between 19s and a Super League appearance and we lose kids off the back of that, they vanish. Maybe if there’s a better reserves comp we can make sure that happens less and less.

Justin Holbrook – St Helens: “We’ll play the odd game here and there, definitely, but the messages we keep hearing about the future of it are mixed.
“One week it’s in, the next week it’s out, and there are not many teams doing it. We’ve got a few games locked in for early in the season but after that, who knows.”

Chris Chester – Wakefield Trinity: We’re going with a reserve grade team this year. We’ve applied and it’s been granted, so. we’ll roll with it,” he said. “I’d like to see it made compulsory for every Super League team. Hopefully they make it compulsory by the end of this season because that would be a logical move from here, surely.

Steve Price – Warrington Wolves: It’s a really good question. I’d like to think that every coach would have aspirations of having reserve grade. It’s the powers above that need to drive it though. We’ve always been a club that wants to grow local players and give every kid aspirations to be a Super League player but more so a Warrington player. I’d like to think the powers above will come up with a good solution because we don’t want to be losing our kids to other sports.

Denis Betts – Widnes Vikings: “It’s like being a politician, you can promise everything, but can you deliver it?
“There has to be a plan in place that makes it sustainable and an ambition to make it work.
“I don’t see that. I see an idea, which I think is a great idea, but give me some structure and some understanding of the cost.”

Shaun Wane – Wigan Warriors: Me personally, I can’t see how we’d function without it because it’s so difficult without it. I can’t comprehend how it doesn’t work at other clubs. It just works for us as a club, I know that. We’re going to have play certain teams a few times but we have to make the best of it.