City of Hull Academy Director Danny Wilson discusses the Academy’s 2018 season, England & Yorkshire call-ups and plans for the joint academy moving forward.
“In terms of the season from an Academy point of view, we run all year round because that involves supporting the CAT 3 college at Bishop Burton, running the Scholarship 16s programme, England Talent Pathway, development days, talent transfer squads and the under-19s.
“In terms of an academic year from last September up until now, its been a very successful year. There’s three main reasons for this, the first being player progression into first team. Five players have signed first-team deals at either club, alongside more first team debuts as well.
“Secondly, as a result of those players taking the step up to first team, it’s opened up the door for younger players to feature for the 19s. We’ve also taken some trialists on throughout the year and some of them have been rewarded with 19s contracts.
“The last point is based around how layered and wide our programme has now become. We run a very thorough England Talent Pathway, linking with both club’s Foundations at Hull FC and Hull KR. We run a really good school’s programme, a talent transfer squad at 14s, 15s & 16s.
“We run development squads for players that aren’t quite at Scholarship level yet through Bishop Burton College at 15s & 16s and we run open access days, which means we’re getting exposure to everyone who plays the game locally and everyone who has the transferrable skills to play Rugby League, whether it be Football players, Boxers, Basketball players or other sports.
“Now, our talent identification programme is outstanding. We have 40 scouts whether it be locally, regionally, nationally or within schools.
“Overall, we’ve had a very successful year off the field, as well as our player progression on the field.
“We’re delighted to have seen first-year players Mikey Lewis and Connor Wynne selected for Yorkshire Academy alongside Elliot Wallis, Charlie Patterson-Lund, Adam Rooks and Cameron Scott. It’s a fantastic achievement for them, especially for the two first-years, who have only just come into the Academy this year.
“Connor progressed into the Academy later, whilst Mikey came into the Scholarship programme very late and joined the Academy after that. I think that’s a great advertisement for players that aren’t picked up on Scholarship at 14 or 15 to show that it’s not over and that you can be picked up later on.
“These two in-particular [Lewis & Wynne] have both picked up regional representative honours already and will hopefully gain England call-ups on the back of that.
“I think the concept of having an Origin game is superb for the sport. It gives players another avenue to be challenged at a higher level within a different environment under new coaches.
“We’ve brought in 15 players to the Scholarship for 2019. We’re allowed to take 20 players from the community game, however, we never recruit to the cap to allow time for those players who mature and develop later to come through.
“We’ve also taken on a few talent transfer players who don’t count towards that cap of 20 because they weren’t playing Rugby League before so it’s seen as a way of bringing them into the game.
“And now, coming out of the other end of the Scholarship are eleven new signing to the under-19s for 2019. Culture is a very big thing for us and this is a very good group of players. They have a great ability, are great physically and importantly, they’re strong mentally. They work very hard and that’s showing because of the number of players we’ve had on the national programme within England and Wales at youth level. These players will certainly drive our Academy forward even further.
“Looking ahead, in terms of what it looks like for the under-19s in 2019 will depend on the reserve grade. I’d like to think that there will be some reserve grade Rugby there which will probably give us an opportunity to push people up to challenge them whist continuing to give those first and second year players that under-19s Rugby League experience.
“Hopefully after 2019 the reserve grade will become compulsory because we’re missing a bridge of development from academy rugby into first-team rugby, but our objective will always be centred around improving and giving players the best chance they can to develop.”