Map Sports

Life outside the Super League

If ever proof was needed that there is life in Rugby League in the UK outside The First Utility Super League than the start to this season has done just that. The amount of players, not only holding their own, but putting in eye catching performances who have learnt their trade in the lower leagues is at an all-time high.

Just look at the two teams at the top, Saints game is built on the great go forward of their big guys in the middle. Alex Walmsley and Karl Amor have been magnificent in St Helens unbeaten start to the season. They have taken the competition by storm and are the stand out players so far. Both have uncompromising defence but its ball in hand where they are doing the damage. Both have a good off load and neither is afraid to use it. On the back of this platform Saints are able to throw the ball around. Amor a product of the Hensingham ARLFRC club in Whitehaven and started his pro career at his local club before moving on to Leeds and Wakefield before his summer move to the Saints. Walmsley was at Bately Bulldogs before his skills were seen and then developed by St Helens.

Over the Pennines, Castleford are also unbeaten and proving there’s life after Rangi Chase. Many pundits (myself included) thought that Cas may struggle without the mercurial Mr Chase, but what they’ve lost in off the cuff brilliance they’ve gained in structure and composure. Castleford have used the calming influence of Liam Finn to pull the strings of a talented back line and the workman like forwards are been directed with equal aplomb and the Jungle locals are reaping the benefits. Finn who has directed Championship neighbours Featherstone for the last few seasons has taken to Super League like a duck to water and his relationship with his coach Darryl Powell (another whose background, well coaching at least is championship based) is plain to see, both trust each other immensely.

These 3 players are just a couple of examples of players learning their trade at the lower level. Anthony England at Warrington Greg Johnston at Salford are others who’ve bridged the gap over the close season. The Championship in my opinion is great ground to learn the trade of a top class footy player, it may not have the speed of Super League but the physicality of it and the brand of rugby played means these guys are learning to play the game in a better competition than the 19’s at Super League clubs. The step is far too great from 19’s to Super League, as these kids have never played against men before, never mind the cream of our top flight athletes.

Dual registration is trying to give these kids the pathway into open age rugby, but surely the real answer to this problem is to bring back the reserve team competition. Talented youngsters can learn the finer arts of rugby league alongside team mates from their own club wearing the badge they’ve signed for. How that all fits into the new systems being discussed I am not sure, but for now the Championship and Championship 1 are proving to be a great breeding ground for future stars.