COLUMN: I really, really don’t get why there isn’t a Reserves league

“I can’t comprehend how it doesn’t work.”

I echo the above comments made by Shaun Wane on the current Reserves system at the Wigan Warriors media day.

Warrington Wolves and Hull FC are the latest clubs to ditch their second-string sides and will rely heavily on their dual-registration partnerships with Rochdale Hornets and Doncaster respectively this year.

But why?

Apparently, it costs approximately £30,000 per-year to run a Reserves side. I don’t believe this figure because why would a club have to pay that much? Players and coaches salaries are already paid anyway, whether they are in the first team or Under-19s, so all I can think of that would cost money with the Reserves would literally be coach travel and food.

Players are slipping through the net because if they aren’t ready to play Super League when they are 19-years-old then they are released and go to lower league clubs or even drop out of the game all together. It’s a shambles.

It doesn’t take a mastermind to know that people develop at different ages. Some players are ready mentally and physically to play at the highest level when they are 18 while others are only ready to play Super League when they are 23. It just varies.

It’s scary to think of how many talented players Rugby League has lost over the years because of there being no reserves.

Wane has brought through more homegrown players at Wigan than any other coach in Super League and explained why he wants a proper Reserves structure at the media day.

He said: “Me personally, I don’t see how our club would function without it.

“When I’m getting clips from when players have played for Swinton on dual-reg – it’s not the same but when we play St Helens in a Reserve fixture and they are trained by our coaches and I get a video straight after the game and can talk to the players – it’s miles better. It just fits with us.

“I can’t comprehend how it doesn’t work. I can’t talk about the financial implications with other clubs but it definitely works for our club.

“We are going to have to play a few teams a few times (this year) but we just have to make the best of it.”

I can’t help but agree with everything he says about the Reserves.

There is always talk of why Super League is behind the NRL and the Reserves competition is a big factor, there’s no doubt about it.

NRL clubs actually have feeder clubs who act as a Reserves team, something which only looks like a dream for Super League at the moment.

And if you look at players who make their debut in the NRL, they are normally around 23 or 24, not 18 or 19 like in Super League! We aren’t letting players develop and grow properly. Clubs are forced to throw them in at the deep end.

Special mentions must go to the lower league clubs in Leigh Centurions, Halifax and Keighley Cougars who are showing some of the top-tier clubs up and running second-string sides this year.

In my opinion, the RFL should make it compulsory for all Super League clubs to have a Reserves team. We would see the benefits within a couple of years with the amount of highly talented players produced.


  1. Should be compulsory your quite right! If not, or if the RFL can’t get organised enough to produce fixtures, any reserve teams should be offered entry to league 1 (in the same model as Spanish lower league football)….that would certainly attract interest from SL clubs

  2. Agree totally. We are losing good players from the game because of the age barrier. For the game to expand it can’t afford to lose players who have not quite reached their potential i.e. over 19 year olds. Having watched the game over many years I have seen it go steadily backwards over the last ten years. For the game to survive it needs from grassroots to S/L to progress,otherwise it will end up as it was when Super League first came into being after all the hard work that has gone into the game of Rugby League.

  3. I can see the reasons behind a reserve team but what benefit to the game is clubs running u15’s u 16’s and u18’s teams, as there must be a far larger number of those age groups lost to the game when they are cut by the pro club (yes I know they are supposed to be returned to their original community club but do they?), just leave that to the community game and have clubs affiliated to pro clubs and then feed down the funding to those clubs.

  4. I personally, while not against reserve sides, prefer the dual-registration system.
    It allows young players to be prepared for the elite competition by pitting them against men in a competitive league. While the pace of the game in the Championship and League 1 may be slower, the physicality matches Super League, and helps toughen up youngsters and show them what open age rugby playing against men is really like. With their training at Super League clubs they should be ready for the pace of SL, but it is the physicality where many fail.
    With a reserve side it would mainly be youngsters with a few old heads thrown in to get a bit of match fitness, usually when coming back from injury. Unless it was a proper reserve league with a trophy at the end of it, I can’t see how players would be motivated to play for the reserves. Endless friendlies benefits no-one, whereas playing in the Champ and League 1 in competitive fixtures is more beneficial as there is an end-goal.
    A good friend of mine played against St Helens reserves for England Students earlier this year. Kyle Amor was playing for the reserves, and he said Amor looked disinterested and barely got involved in the game. I’m sure if he was playing in the Championship he would put a lot more effort in.
    The RFL has two options. Start a proper league with a trophy so there is a reason to play, or persevere with dual-reg. For me, dual-reg would be best

  5. Totally agree, I know plenty of very talented lads who have slipped the net and ,no longer even play, and others who are at union, what a waste! All this after the effort and years of hard work at the Widnes scholarship,
    I understand the clubs position in having to let a lot go but if there was a reserve grade structure in place,( and yes I would make it compulsory and a requirement for entry into not only the super league, but all professional leagues), an awful lot of talent and late developers would be saved to the game.
    I would suggest that whoever takes over at rugby league HQ, that they negotiate a deal more fitting to what we offer them, and this would help the clubs who are short on finances and prevent the others, as using it as an excuse.
    Failing that, pay members of staff from the Likes of Keighley, Halifax and Leigh to come and show them how it CAN be done!
    With talk about expansion in North America for example, the player pool needs expanding.
    Don’t we do common sense in our great game?

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