Hull KR hooker Shaun Lunt has launched a new business venture, which he hopes can boost the amount of talent available to professional clubs in the UK and Europe.
Called HQ9, the online offering allows players from nine years old and upwards to upload profiles which can make it simpler for scouts to spot them.
Clubs can also use the facility to make it easier to find players, especially those from outside the M62 corridor, something which Lunt hopes can help more Cumbrians, like him, find a route into the professional game.
“With me being from Cumbria, I found it very hard to break into professional rugby league, as it’s all based on the M62 corridor, as everyone knows,” he told Love Rugby League.
“So what I’ve done is to create a player profiling network where kids can join and have their own profile.
“I’ve put it to all the clubs, and they’re involved. For the clubs it’s a scouting tool, so they can scout for kids all over the country.
“For the kids, if they upload a profile, they can put highlight footage on there of themselves playing, their age, their height, a bit about themselves with a bit of a bio with their rugby league skills.
“It makes it easier for them to break into the professional world, briding the gap between the amateur and the professional game.”
Lunt is also optimistic that his project can help boost UK rugby league’s talent pool, something which seems to be a perennial issue for the sport in this country.
“I’m trying to benefit the game of rugby league as whole as well,” he explained.
“The NRL salary cap is going up and up, so there’s not a lot of players coming over to our game, which is a good thing I believe, because it gives the youngsters the chance to come through.
“So rather than spending money on bringing players in who make it more glamorous, you’ve got to think about the longevity of Super League, and its sustainability.
“We need to start bringing our kids through. That’s why the NRL is thriving so much, because their conveyor belt of players is huge.”
The Hull KR man, who has also won trophies with Huddersfield and Leeds during his career, feels that his project can also help to unearth talent in countries other than the UK.
With rugby league now being played in places like Ireland, Serbia and Ukraine, talented players can be found in much more exotic locations than previously.
As scouting resources are often limited for clubs, Lunt believes his project offers a simpler way to scout for players for clubs.
“I don’t think the clubs have really got the funds to do it,” he said.
“The RFL is a wealthy organisation, in terms of turnover and profit each year, but obviously it’s the clubs who are picking up the bill for finding the players and developing them.
“For them it’s a big chance to take. With HQ9, I want to take it into those countries that don’t have that chance.
“There’ll be gems all over Europe playing who just need a chance.
“If they’re on this website, the clubs have said they’re going to use it, so they can search for players who are logistically inaccessible at this moment in time.”
Another demographic whom Lunt hopes his project can help is late developers, those players who might have been released by professional clubs back into the student and community game.
“My good friend Tyrone McCarthy was playing at university before he signed for Warrington, and look where he is now ,” Lunt added.
“He’s won two Challenge Cups and now he’s playing the NRL, the best league in the world.
“So it just goes to show, that there are late developers in the game.
“Like myself – I was 21 when I made my debut in the game and I’ve gone onto win a place with England, I’ve played in three Challenge Cup finals, I’ve won the Grand Final, I’ve won the League Leader’s Shield.
“So I’ve done a lot in a short space of time. It just shows that us as a sport have a lot of late developers.”Look at Alex Walmsley, he was playing at Leeds Met, and he was runner-up for the Man of Steel last year.
“They are there, and if you put them in that professional environment, they can thrive.”
The focus is one players from nine years upward, because Lunt feels that getting a kid the right coaching at that young age can pay huge dividends later in life.
“From nine years upwards, because I want to give kids a chance,” he said.
“Kids don’t start scholarships until they’re 13 or 14, so clubs start looking at kids at 12 years old or something.
“But if you get a kid at nine years old and give him professional coaching, by the time he’s 12 or 13 then they’re going to be miles ahead of where the standard is now.
“So the sooner the clubs get hold of kids and teach them the core skills, the better we’re going to be as nation as a whole.
“So I’m going from nine years up to their 20s.”
The official HQ9 website can be found HERE.