In recent weeks, there has appeared an ever-increasing demand for all Super League clubs to have a reserves side that would create a pathway for youngsters from clubs' academies that are not yet ready for the first-team setup. And, there are many arguments that favour this theory being given the green light.

Loss of talent

Over the years, talented youngsters have slipped through the net because if they aren’t ready to play Super League when they are 19 years of age and past academy level, they are released. Many move to lower league clubs whilst some even drop out of the game altogether.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that rugby players develop at different ages.

Some are physically and mentally ready to play at the highest level when they are still in their teens - Craig Huby, for example, made his Castleford debut aged just 16 - while others are only ready to play Super League when they are 23. It just varies and nothing can be done to speed up the process.

The lack of a reserves side means that those "late bloomers' so to speak do not get a chance past the Under-19s setup. To put this into perspective, it’s quite scary to think of how many talented players Rugby League has lost over the years because there is no adequate pathway to the first-team once players have left the academy. James Roby, for example, would possibly have been lost to the game if St Helens had not had a reserves side when he was breaking through as a youngster.

Competition with the NRL

Pundits and supporters often highlight the bridge in quality between the Super League and the NRL competition.

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Well, one thing going massively in the favour of the Australian competition is that NRL sides have feeder teams - basically reserves sides with a fancy name. Remarkably, Brisbane Broncos currently have five, yes five, feeder teams all of whom ply their trade in the Queensland Cup: Ipswich Jets, Northern Suburbs Devils, Redcliffe Dolphins, Souths Logan Magpies and Wynnum Manly Seagulls. This means that the Broncos could, effectively, choose from over 100 players to join the Broncos first-team, whilst Super League clubs with no reserves side have to make do with around 30.

Though it could be hard to sift through the number of players at Brisbane's feeder clubs for example, there would still be a plethora of talent to choose from to make the step up to the NRL. These are players that are playing week-in, week-out against much more competitive sides than they would do in their respective academies. It is no surprise, therefore, that the Australian national side could pick two different world-class sides and still sweep aside all competitors.

Just look at the average age that a player in the NRL makes his debut compared to that in the English top-flight. The former is around 23 or 24 and the latter usually around 18 or 19 - it's not rocket science to understand that NRL debutants are much more ready for the rigours of first-team rugby than those who debut in Super League.

For the English game to catch up to the NRL, giving young players a lifeline after they have progressed past academy level is essential. By having a reserves side, top-flight clubs are giving talented youth - that are not yet ready for first-team action - a chance to build their confidence at a much greater physical level than they had previously been used to. Why is Rugby League in this country denying youngsters this chance?

Replace dual-registration

The reserves idea was actually scrapped in 2013 to make way for dual-registration. This latter concept was introduced as a way of allowing Super League fringe players to acquire regular match experience in the second-tier. As such, the idea was created to help player development, whilst also providing clubs in the Championship with new players who might help teams progress on the pitch. It has, however, turned into a farce.

Some Super League clubs can send five of their players to a club one week and recall them back the week after; there is no stability and consistency and Championship clubs are at the beck and call of Super League sides if they do enter into an agreement. Introducing a reserves side will allow Super League clubs to monitor the progress of their players more closely whilst also ensure there is a level playing field in the Championship. Reserve sides are trained by the same coaches as the first-team and analysis of the game can be done straight after a fixture has been played rather than through bit-part reports from their dual-registration partners.

Dual-registration can also stagnate the progress of Championship youngsters; let's face it, if a second-tier side has access to Super League fringe players, they are going to play them, regardless of whether or not they could promote their own youth instead. After all, Rugby League is a results-based business.

Each Super League should have one

Reserves sides were brought back in ahead of the 2016 season, but only four teams went along with the reintroduction: Wigan, St Helens, Warrington and Hull FC - they played each other three times and thus had a total of nine games in one year. This is just not enough; for the reserves idea to work, all top-flight clubs should take part.

Super League clubs cannot moan about the cost - Warrington head coach Tony Smith stated that it cost just £35,000 to run a reserves side for the 2016 season. This is a mere drop in the ocean when considering that most Super League sides will be spending around £2 million on the salary cap in the next few years.

In fact, both Warrington and Hull have actually ditched their reserves side for 2018 with an organised system still a pipedream. Though these two have rejected the idea, Wakefield have committed to it for the upcoming season along with Championship sides Leigh, Keighley and Halifax (the latter two both introduced a reserves side for 2017). But, this is still not enough.

Someone at the top needs to pull their finger out and implement a proper reserves competition. Undoubtedly, it would not only benefit those clubs taking part, but it would also improve the sport in this country as a whole; more up-and-coming youth given a chance equals a much more competitive Super League as well as more talent to be potentially picked for the national side. England came bitterly close to finally breaking the Australian hoodoo in last year's World Cup; with a Super League reserves competition, the likelihood of beating Australia would become even greater. #RugbyLeague #RL #SuperLeague