And so it has begun.
Leigh this week announced the first dual contract players in club history with Warrington trio Matty Blythe, Lee Mitchell and Tyrone McCarthy joining St Helens Jacob Emmitt on double deals. All four players are just 21 and hopefully have long careers in front of them.
Widnes last week announced the dual contract signings of Shaun Ainscough and Liam Farrell from Wigan and it would be fair to say in Ainscough, he made an instant impact with two tries at Batley.
Now I admit to not knowing how this system would work in Rugby League so I did the done thing and asked the question of their media department. They obliged by issuing the press release you may have already seen on this site.
A dual registration system has been ongoing in Rugby Union’s domestic competition for the last three years. During my time covering Union for Channel M, I regularly saw players from Sale Sharks and Leeds Carnegie take the field for Sedgley Park and Manchester Rugby Union Club. This has helped players like Dan Birchall and Chris Leck of Sale gain plenty of first team experience at levels higher than the equivalent reserve competition. This is an obvious benefit to the player, while the parent club can observe how that player is progressing.
The following snippet from an article in the Birmingham Post talks about Union Championship side Moseley and their link up with Gloucester. Out of interest Gloucester is the current club of former Bradford Bulls winger Lesley Vainikolo and a previous club of Henry Paul.
This is the third season Moseley have been providing the light of competitive rugby to the mushrooming talent down the M5 and there have been some beauties.
While the loan arrangement between the clubs never really settled into anything reliable, the dual-registration system – in which promising academy players are effectively leased by Moseley has done wonders for the junior partner.
Dan Norton and Jack Adams were the cutting edge with which the Red and Blacks scythed through Exeter and Leeds en route to Twickenham glory last term. And Charlie Sharples used his tutelage at Billesley to break into the Cherry and Whites’ first team where he is now a permanent fixture. He scored some fantastically good tries on the way too.
A whole host of other players have helped Moseley along the way, and while the ribbons on the cup might have been red and black, you could argue that one of them might have been tipped with a flash of Cherry.
Because since the agreement became formal two years ago, more than a dozen Kingsholm kids have seen action with the Birmingham outfit, with various players returning to their parent club and going on to make an impact.
All that makes dual registration sound a really good thing and there are benefits but as Widnes have found there is another side to the system – the unavailability of players.
Chris Dean was brought from St Helens and looked in good touch in the Vikings 50-6 win over Gateshead, however, injury to the Saints big centre signing Sia Soliola means Dean is back at Knowsley Road for the next few weeks at least – which don’t get me wrong, provides a great opportunity for the young fellow.
The system seems better than the old loan agreement where after a player had done a set month they could be recalled at any time by the parent club unless a longer loan agreement was signed. Leigh in particular lost out on Tom Hemingway last season after he was recalled by Huddersfield, played a game and never saw first team action again. Had it been dual-reg, Hemingway would have been free to return to Leigh and the Centurions wouldn’t have had to worry about the signing deadline.
I like what Ian Millward said about the issue though: “It can be a bit hit and miss in the fact that you can have four players but they may never play for you, or you might get four and they play week in, week out.”
It has pluses and minuses I guess we’ll see how it develops but one thing is for sure, with the rules the RFL have implemented mean that we won’t see what has happened in Union where up to 12 players have been brought in on dual contract agreements. People may be worried about becoming feeder clubs but for me this is more like introducing foster clubs.
And so it has begun.