Column: British rugby league needs to make the players superstars

Drew Darbyshire

We need to make superstars in the British game, especially after England Academy wrapped up a series whitewash against the Australian Schoolboys.

England Academy beat the Australian Schoolboys in the first game at Leigh Sports Village and in the second game at Emerald Headingley Stadium in Leeds last week.

Morgan Smithies, Harry Smith and Jack Welsby were the standouts of the two Test matches, but overall, every Englishman certainly played their part and impressed on the big stage.

It was good to see a crowd of 1,557 at Headingley, who witnessed the country’s future stars and it also gained good press coverage.

There are so many good up and coming players in the Under-19s Academy league. The country has some great community clubs that do a tremendous job at bringing the players through, before some go on to join academies.

But we need to make the players into superstars of our game though, that’s our next step. There are some right characters in every club, so we just need to find out who they are and put them in the spotlight.

For example, Smith was brilliant for England in their two games and is without doubt a future England senior international, but we should be hyping players like him up now.

I remember seeing videos all over the internet of a then 16-year-old Latrell Mitchell years ago. He has gone on to win Origin with New South Wales and is now an Australia senior international at just the age of 21.

We need to be following suit and doing that with the British players and showcasing our talent to bigger audiences.

Also, something that I’ve never understood is a lot of fans moan that their club have not signed anyone… When their academy is superb.

Look at Wigan Warriors for example. A lot of Wigan supporters have want the club to bring in overseas players, despite having one of – if not – the best academy in the world.

The Warriors have got a top-class academy and the fact that ex-coach Shaun Wane gave more than 40 first-team debuts in his time as head coach just shows good their academy is. Clubs don’t always have to buy other players when they can promote from within.

We always bang on about marketing and advertising in rugby league – but we only do because it’s so important for the sports future.

Marketing and promoting our players could be so simple but so effective for rugby league. We want our players to have the profile that Mitchell had before he even made his first-team debut.

We need to show off our rising stars as much as we can, they are the future after all.