BLOG: There needs to be a Reserves league

Super League needs to have a Reserves league because it would benefit everyone involved.

A reserves system came back into the game prior to the 2016 campaign but it has still only got four Super League teams involved.

Wigan Warriors, St Helens, Warrington Wolves and Hull FC are the only top-flight clubs to run reserve-grades but due to there only being four teams involved, young players are only playing a handful of games per year.

And the four teams who finished in the top four in Super League after the regular campaign last year were Wigan, St Helens, Warrington and Hull.

Credit must also go to Championship side Halifax and League 1 outfit Keighley Cougars who also have second string sides.

But it makes you think, if Halifax and Keighley can afford to do it then why can’t well-backed Super League sides do it?

The Under-19s structure has worked well and there is no need to change anything about that. Players who are 17-years-old for example are testing themselves against bigger players who are 19 years of age which can only be good for their development.

However, Leigh Centurions and Salford Red Devils don’t even have Academies, never mind Reserves, though the former have just had approval for a tier 3 academy.

It is extremely tough for players who are too old for the Under-19s but are still on the fringes of the first team.

Their progress is being halted due to a lack of game time and they can do as much training as they want but they will not make half the progress that they should without playing regularly.

And this then ties in with the dual-registration system, which was introduced in 2013. For anyone who doesn’t know, dual-reg is where a Super League player can also be registered to play for a club in a lower division on a week-to-week basis.

Some Super League outfits might not even want a dual-registration partnership but they are forced to do so anyway because their younger players need game time.

Also, first team regulars who are coming back from injury can ease their way back into the swing of things by playing for the Reserves rather than being chucked back in at the deep end with a higher risk of sustaining an injury at the highest level.

Take Dom Manfredi for example, he played for Wigan’s Reserves against St Helens last month rather than playing for the first team straight away.

England Academy have named a highly talented 22-man squad for two Tests against France this autumn, some even with Super League experience.

But how many of those will be in a situation where in a year or two, they will also be stuck for game time?

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not expensive to run a reserve-grade but unless made mandatory, it is looking like clubs will not be running them anytime soon.

What are your thoughts on the current Reserves scheme? Let us know in the comments below.



About Drew Darbyshire 8045 Articles
Love Rugby League Deputy Editor. Joined the site ahead of the 2017 World Cup and been a full-time reporter since 2018.


  1. I agree clubs need to be forced to run reserve teams. Fringe players will be playing the same structures as 1st team therefore the transition will be easier. Dual registration is ruining the championship competition

  2. Absolutely. As an overseas example of the potential benefits, the reserve structure in the NRL is an important feature in player development, and it offers an interesting compromise in maintaining legacy clubs. It would take some money (from where, who knows) to make it work under an RFL umbrella, but it could offer a marked improvement in the development of the game (and week-to-week quality at the top level by keeping marginal/recovering players up to speed).

    Would it make sense to roll a wide reserves system into a re-structuring that sees licensing at the top level and affiliations among Super League sides and part-time sides that participate as reserve squads? That could offer some stability at multiple tiers, and at least give some part-timers buy-in to the top tier.

    Disclaimer: I am a foreigner who doesn’t know what he is talking about, but who loves league and wants to see it thrive.

  3. Agreed that there should be more action for reserve teams. Personally I would like to see all reserve teams incorporated into league 1 (even if that then requires a divide along east/west or north/south lines…maybe with a playoff for promotion). Think if this happened there would be interest in placing a reserve/academy team in league 1 from likes of Leeds, Catalan, Castleford (maybe a combined team with Wakefield….to cut costs), maybe even London.

    You would just need to set sometime of rules around eligibility, again personally I would like it only U23’s and EU nationals.

  4. Time to bring back the reserves teams
    We are losing so many quality young players & wastin the time of young people.
    We are giving many young players faults hope.
    If your not in the 1st team squad at age 19 then clubs are giving up on you.
    Where is the common sense in that.
    Rugby league needs to build a solid foundation from academy rugby to reserve rugby then one day we may be able to compete at International level.
    This is from a former reserve player at 16 years old at Warrington, who went on to play for Great Britain.

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