Championship Scholarship

Date published: Wednesday, December 1, 2010

ROUGHYEDS are delighted to announce that the club has taken a major step forward in its long-term development plans by becoming one of only four clubs to take part in the RFL’s newly-launched Championship Scholarship scheme.

Only a small percentage of boys who are on scholarship to Super League or leading Championship clubs are offered contracts when they are 16.

The RFL are keen to provide another pathway into the professional game for talented youngsters who might otherwise become disillusioned and have launched a scheme in which Championship clubs can tap into that wealth of talent and recruit them on two-year scholarships to take them up to 18.

Oldham, Hunslet Hawks, York City Knights and Keighley Cougars are the only clubs to date to have committed to the scheme which Roughyeds believe will provide the club with possibly its most significant and ambitious development in the past 13 years.

“This is a massive undertaking,” said chairman Chris Hamilton, “and one that will be the cornerstone of solid foundations to secure the club’s long-term future.

“At any given time more than 200 boys aged 11 to 16 are on scholarships with leading clubs in the sport but when they reach the age of 16 most of them find themselves at a loose end and many of those become disillusioned and, in some cases, are lost to the game.

“The RFL are taking steps to reduce that happening and we are proud to announce that we will be running a Championship Scholarship and that we are already up and running in terms of putting our plans in place.

“Young players don’t all make it by the time they are 16 and in most cases those who are not taken on by Super League clubs deserve to be given another opportunity to play at professional level.

“They provide a ready-made pool of talent which we can tap into and perhaps pick up professional players of the future. This scheme will also give us a conveyor belt from our Championship Scholarship squad (16 to 18) on to John Hough’s reserve team and ultimately on to Tony Benson’s senior squad.

“The youngsters will get the benefit of elite coaching in a professional environment and hopefully some of them will go on to hit the first team, via the reserves, or even win promotion directly into the senior squad.”

Roughyeds have already had two meetings at Whitebank with potential recruits and their parents, including some local boys but involving many others from all over the region. The club has also written to local amateur clubs to keep them fully informed.

There will be a skills session at Whitebank from 11.30am to 1pm on Saturday, December 11 and in the New Year the club will start to run twice-a-week coaching sessions for those players who have been invited to take part.

They will come under the wing of the club’s newly-appointed Championship Scholarship coach Phil Costin (see separate story) and they will be trained, coached and guided through conditioning, nutrition and lifestyle programmes in exactly the same way as will the reserve team and the first team.

Added Chris: “The fact that only four clubs have taken up this opportunity tells you a lot about how big a venture it is. I suspect that the costs involved might have had a lot to do with it.

“It’s the next stage of a development plabn we have had in place for some time. The reserves competition next season goes to under-23 with only three players allowed over-age so the timing of this couldn’t possibly have been any better — and it was all made possible for us, of course, because we now have our own ground at Whitebank.

“At this stage we are the only club this side of the Pennines to take up the scheme and I like to think it puts us on a pedestal. The RFL see it as another pathway into the professional game and it’s all about working in conjuction with the players’ existing commitments.”

The RFL proposed two options.

The first was for participating clubs to take the young players for twice-a-week training all season and then, come the end of the season, to stage a competition involving other clubs who were in the scheme.

The second was for clubs to enter a team in the Gillette National Youth League which is due to start a summer season in March, 2011.

Roughyeds took the view that it was asking too much of young players to train all season with no games until the end of the year, so Phil Costin will be head coach of a squad which will apply for entry into the Gillette National Youth League.

This has to be done through an amateur club and with that and other proposals in mind talks have been ongoing for several months with community partners in the area of Whitebank and Limehurst Village about the possibilities of setting up an amateur club based around the Limehurst-Hollinwood area.

Initially, there are plans to start off with an under-8s team and build from there, while also incorporating the new team in the Gillette Youth League, both to be based at the Whitebank Stadium.

“The club is proud to be involved in such a massive forward step,” said Chris. “It will help us to go from strength to strength as a club.

“Cost to run the scheme will be ‘in the thousands’ because, apart from anything else, there will be lots of travel involved in the National Youth League with trips to places like Cumbria, Gateshead and London.

“We’ll be looking to get sponsors on board and people to help us with training and playing kit etc. We have done our budgets and we know it is something worth taking on board for the long-term benefits — it’s something that will grow and grow.

“We are proud of our record in terms of developing our own players and proud of the work that has been done in recent years in terms of establishing and developing our reserve team squad and bringing players through into the first team.

“We are also comfortable in the knowledge that we have the systems and the personnel in place to give young players the best possible grounding and to give them the opportunity to make progress in the sport.

“Last season Chris Clarke, Ben Heaton and Scott Mansfield performed with great credit in the senior side, having come through the reserves, and Joe Chandler excelled by playing in every single game although he came to us from Leeds Rhinos with virtually no experience at first-team level.

“He has now moved on to the Championship Grand Final winners, Halifax, and while we were disappointed to see him go we would actively encourage boys to move up the ladder if they got the opportunity.”