Warrington coach Tony Smith has spoken exclusively to Love Rugby League about the number of impressive youngsters being developed at the Wolves.
This season Smith has handed Super League debuts to Brad Dwyer and Ben Currie. Dwyer has impressed for the Wolves at hooker, while Currie scored on his first team debut with a try over Widnes during the Easter weekend.
But the former Leeds coach says there are more players coming through who could make their debuts before the end of the current season.
He said: “We have some really talented guys who are doing a good job for us which has allowed us to look after, rotate and freshen up our more experience players.
“Both Dwyer and Currie have been exceptional whenever they have been given a chance. They have been exceptional in their own age bracket and they have stood out. I had every bit of faith when they stood up in first grade they would do a good job, and they have more than done that.”
With the number of players coming through the Wolves’ academy and reserve squad, Smith is finding it difficult to give his youngsters the chance to perform and rest his senior players who are eager for game time to push for representative selections.
However Smith is more concerned about not running his players to the ground ahead of the play offs, which last season saw Warrington lose to Leeds in the play off semi finals.
He said: “It is hard to leave senior players out when they want to gain some momentum, so you have to be careful how much you do change the team.
“There are some young boys out there gaining experience at some other clubs as well, and that’s important for their development and they’re doing a good job. There are steps some they need to go through and they need to earn their stripes, but they are special boys.
“Fortunately at our club we don’t have to rely on youngsters to perform at the top level each and every week. We have seen that happen with different young guys in the past, and it probably doesn’t help them advance whereas we are picking and choosing when they play and they are doing a great job. We are doing the right thing by their development.”
After three years in charge of the Wolves, the players coming through the club’s youth development have been under Smith’s leadership for the majority of time at the club. Smith has oversaw their progress from the under 18s right through to making their first grade debuts.
With a sense of pride in his voice, Smith was happy to name some players who are on the verge of playing Super League for the Wolves, including the brother of a current Warrington first team player
He said: “Danny Bridge (brother of Chris) has been 18th man a couple of times this season. He is knocking on the door for selection and has been unlucky not to be selected with some of his form in the under 20s. He is developing well, and it’s a matter of time before he plays first grade.
“James Saltonstall has been terrific in the under 20s, and is only 17 years old. He is a real talent and it’s a matter of time before he gets a chance.
He has urged other Super League clubs to invest in their youth development systems in order to bring though home grown players.
The Wolves understand the importance of bringing through young players, but Smith is not taking of the credit for the hard work and time his team of coaches have put in for nurturing young talent.
He said: “Making sure the right time for these players isn’t always easy so we’re trying to develop as many young kids at our place as we can, which is led by John Bastian. He has been very good for the club and some of the investment in that area is paying off for us now.
“We’re trying to bring players on when they’re ready for first grade, and hopefully we can fit them in the squad but at the same time we have some people who have been around the block who want to play. Hopefully there will be many other clubs who invest in that area and bring on many British players as well.”