In the past decade or so, Castleford Tigers have been responsible for producing a number of Super League stars; the likes of Michael Shenton, Daryl Clark, Craig Huby, Adam Milner and Shaun Lunt are just some of the top-flight players that have progressed through the Tigers' academy. Drop down a tier and Castleford roots are prevalent in the Championship too; Batley's Dominic Brambani, Halifax's Ben Johnston, Toronto's Ryan Brierley, Sheffield's Ben Blackmore and Featherstone's Tom Holmes are all products of the Tigers' academy - the list is endless.

However, in recent years, very few academy products have made it into the Castleford first-team. Daryl Clark in 2011 was perhaps the last Castleford youth player to make it big in Rugby League, winning the Man of Steel in 2014. Tom Holmes appeared 20 times in a Tigers' shirt since making his debut in 2015, but left to join Championship outfit Featherstone Rovers for first-team rugby at the end of 2017.

Half-back Jake Trueman has been highlighted as the next big thing and threw in a wonderful debut performance against Wigan in 2017, but he still needs time to develop in order to become a regular in the first-team. So then, it has arguably been seven years since Castleford last produced a consistent Super League player, why is this and what has happened to the potential stars that were once in the Tigers' academy ranks?

Lack of a reserves side

Wigan and St Helens have been the only Super League teams - since the reserves concept was reintroduced back in 2016 - to maintain a reserves side since the very beginning. It is no surprise, therefore, that these two clubs have been responsible for producing some of the most exciting youngsters in the country.

Wigan's Liam Marshall, Tom Davies, Oliver Gildart, Liam Forsyth and Joe Bretherton have all been part of the Wigan academy that have gone on to play in the Warriors' reserves side since 2016. For St Helens, meanwhile, the likes of Danny Richardson, Adam Swift, Jake Spedding and Matty Costello have all plied their trade for Saints' reserves side whilst waiting for a call-up to the first team.

With the ability to play more competitive games against a higher-quality opposition than in the Under-19s, those such as Marshall and Richardson have been able to improve to a greater extent and at a much quicker rate than the youth players at clubs that don't have a reserves side i.e. Castleford. Thus, when a Tigers player reaches the end of his academy career, he either makes the transition to the first team, goes out on loan/dual registration, or leaves the club. There is no middle ground, no step in-between academy and Super League.

Yes, the Championship is a good starting point to gain experience, but it is still not the same as going toe-to-toe with top-flight players. Will Maher, for example, has spent the vast majority of his time at the Tigers - since joining in 2014 - on loan at second-tier sides, failing to crack the Tigers' first-team, and, he is unlikely force his way into the reckoning once again in 2018.

Likewise, Brandon Douglas has been a Championship player for the past two years, having been shipped out to West Yorkshire sides Dewsbury and Halifax. Both were tipped for big futures a few years ago, but both have so far failed to impress head coach Daryl Powell enough to warrant a consistent run in the first team.

Young players that have been touted as the next Castleford product have been simply let go or poached; hooker Luke Million, forward Conor Fitzsimmons and back-rower Luis Johnson left the club at the end of 2017 despite looking impressive at academy level whilst half-back Callum McLelland was picked up by Rugby Union side Edinburgh. Very few have made the step up to the first team.

Any future stars?

Winger/centre Kieran Gill made his debut in 2017 and has been handed the No.28 shirt for this season. But, sidelined with a severe knee injury, it will be very unlikely that the athletic back will get a run in the first-team, especially when considering the abundance of wingers the Tigers currently have. Likewise, No. 29 Tuoyo Egodo - though he can't really be called a Tigers academy player considering he rose through the ranks at London - has Jake Webster and Michael Shenton ahead of him in the centres.

Hooker Jacques O'Neill is expected to be a future star, but he has trained with the first-team ever since he joined the club as a 16-year-old and has, so far, failed to register an appearance.

Three years on and now 19 years of age, O'Neill's debut for the first-team does not exactly look like it's just round the corner either. One can say he's still young, but if you are good enough you are old enough - Leeds' teenage ace Jack Walker is proof of that. But, with Paul McShane improving year-on-year, O'Neill may have to be patient for a while longer.

Full-back Calum Turner and outside back Robbie Storey are both supposed to have bright careers ahead of them, but neither of them have even been within a whisker of the first team. Turner, even with the turmoil surrounding the No.1 position at the Tigers, has not even been considered for the role despite impressing at England academy level.

Thus, where is the next Castleford star likely to come from?

Coaching staff

Another kick in the teeth for budding Castleford stars is the departure of head of youth Pete Riding to Warrington - a deal concluded in the off-season and mysteriously given no airplay in any of the Tigers' news updates. This departure has meant that the Tigers' most important asset at academy level has gone, with no news emanating from the club about a potential replacement. Someone as qualified and respected as Riding is hard to replace, even perhaps irreplaceable.

The Tigers' academy, therefore, can hardly be classed as being in the best state at present. As such, Castleford's once renowned conveyor belt of youth could be about to come to a complete halt unless there is someone waiting in the wings to burst onto the scene in the same fashion as Daryl Clark did in 2011.