Oldham are one of six clubs in Championship with Reserves team

Date published: Thursday, December 8, 2011

OLDHAM will be one of only six out of 20 part-time professional clubs in rugby league’s Championship and Championship One to run a reserve team in the coming season.

Neighbours Rochdale Hornets have bucked the trend by launching a new second team at Spotland, but Dewsbury Rams, York City Knights, Leigh Centurions and Whitehaven have chopped their under-23s for reasons of economy while Widnes Vikings have moved up to Super League.

Roughyeds finished second out of ten teams last season, and beat leaders Widnes in the play-off final, but they will have only five teams in opposition in 2012 — Featherstone Rovers, Keighley Cougars, Sheffield Eagles and Halifax from the Championship and Rochdale from Championship One.

Clubs have still to decide when the 2012 competition will start and to what format it will operate.

Ten games, provided by each team playing every other home and away, might be considered too few.

Doubling up to 20 — two more than last year — will be seen by some clubs as too many, so there may be a compromise of 15 with each team playing every other home AND away and then each meeting again home OR away.

“Talks are still ongoing,” said Roughyeds chairman Chris Hamilton, who is part of an RFL working party to investigate how best to set up a player pathway involving Extended Scholarship teams (under-18s) and reserve teams (under-23s) in the sport’s second and third tiers.

He said it was a “poor reflection” on the modern game that only six clubs out of the 20 below Super League were prepared to invest in a second team.

He added: “The others say they agree in principle, but they are governed by financial restraints and a desire to put all available funding into their senior sides’ bids for promotion.

“I don’t go along with that. If we can invest in a reserve team, so can others.

“Promotion is obviously top of our priorities as well, but we feel it is also important for the well-being of the club and the sport for us to bring young players through and provide them with a pathway at semi-professional level.

“That policy has worked well for us in the past and we remain fully committed to it. Our pay-off is seeing players come through the ranks and getting established in the senior side, as many have done over the years.”

A readjustment of the RFL’s funding to second and third tier clubs in 2013 will see Championship clubs get £20,000 per year more than those in Championship One.

With that in mind the Roughyeds’ chief has suggested that by then it should be mandatory for Championship clubs to have reserve teams, while remaining optional for clubs in the lower division.