Rochdale Hornets chief executive Ryan Bradley believes that a dual registration link-up between professional clubs and National Conference League (NCL) clubs could bring benefits to the game’s lower ranks.
The Hornets have asserted that they strongly support the proposals, especially as they managed to win their first trophy in 91 years in the first year of their partnership with St Helens.
In turn, they believe that players further down the professional pyramid will benefit from playing competitive rugby in the NCL.
“We really do believe that allowing lads to play in the NCL if they aren’t selected for Championship/League 1 duty is the right thing to do” said Bradley,
“We use in excess of 30 players each season and a number of these players come from the NCL.
“If they don’t catch for us, they should be able to go back and play in the community game. As a sport, we shouldn’t be stopping lads playing.
“If every championship/league 1 team has ten players that aren’t selected, that’s an extra 260 lads not playing our sport on a weekend, which is a crying shame given some NCL clubs are struggling for players which in turn pulls players from A teams.”
The Hornets have run ‘A’ teams and reserves in the past, but the Hornets chief does not think that reserve team rugby provides players with a competitive enough environment.
Bradley is actually in favour of a fluid system which would allow players to move from week to week, though he accepts that such a scenario is unlikely.
“If we run a reserves we would just be taking more lads out of the amateur game to fill shirts for our first teamers. The numbers just aren’t there to do it,” he said.
“Plus the standard in the NCL is better. Why would a Mayfield lad want to play for Hornets reserves?
“We’ve tried it with reserves and lads get fed up of just missing out on Championship rugby and then being asked to play in makeshift reserve sides, when their NCL club is clambering to have them back.
“That can’t be right- as a game we can’t be telling players they aren’t allowed to play because they are trying to better themselves, we should let them play.
“The NCL is a very prestigious competition and the management committee and clubs don’t want to jeopardise that. The proposals that have been worked on are driven to protect that competition’s integrity.
“The pro clubs started off a long way from this proposal but during talks with NCL officials we could see what they wanted to achieve and believe the proposals in the current guise offer the best solution to all.
“We want to give lads a chance to prove themselves but at the same time keep them playing and involved with their amateur club, so if they don’t make it they aren’t lost to the game all together, which is often then case.”
Discussions are ongoing between the NCL and RFL, with League 1 and Championship clubs supporting both as part of the working group.
Bradley is himself part of the working group set up by the RFLwhich is examining the issue. The body also includes the NCL Management Group.