The RFL has announced a momentous change to junior Rugby League in Yorkshire with the introduction of a new format of the game specifically developed for children.
This weekend sees all under-7s teams in the region play under new rules for the first time which have been designed to give children more ‘on pitch’ time to help increase the number of juniors playing the sport.
The move comes after a successful pilot programme and the support of many of the First Utility Super League’s top players.
Research conducted by Leeds Metropolitan University found that the new format provided children with 195 percent more opportunities to pass and catch, run with the ball, score tries and evade the opposition. There will also be a balance between touch and full contact Rugby League to put a greater focus on skill development.
RFL Director of Partnerships and Strategic Partnerships David Gent said: “We are confident that this new emphasis on skills development within a fun, less intimidating environment will lead to many more people playing Rugby League throughout their childhood and beyond.”
Former Great Britain player and Rugby League Hall of Fame member Garry Schofield said: “The biggest thing is that the children are playing with a smile of their face. Children love the basics, playing with the ball, passing it around, not being robotic –we need to let them play.
“The move will help us to identify the next world-class players, with more emphasis on ball skills, handling and awareness we can look more closely at natural ability. We don’t want to ‘over-coach’ children, instead let them express themselves.”
Volunteer coach at East Leeds Amateur Rugby League Club, Lee Cosgrove, said: “It’s a fantastic idea, it will allow more kids to experience the ball in their hands and all of the players on the pitch will be more involved in the game.
“It should have a big impact on the sport. Often the game has benefited those children who are more physically developed but new game will give everyone more game time. We’ve just started an under 7s team and 25 children attended last week who will be playing the new game next month.”
The new format was developed after the RFL commissioned an investigation into the game format delivered to 5 to 11 year-olds which found a greater emphasis was required on fun and enjoyment.
The new format starts across Yorkshire this weekend and is planned to be rolled out nationally.