London Broncos under 16s head coach, Huw Goodwin, gives an insight into what exactly a pre-season for our scholarship squad involves – including recruiting new players, training, and what we can expect in 2017.
“It’s been a good start. All the boys have put in the effort that we would expect, and Yoni Charlupski has been a positive addition to the coaching team,” says Goodwin.
“It’s a strong group this year and so it is exciting to see how they progress.
“At this stage of the year there is a big focus on core skill and ‘learning to train’. We recruit players who have a wide range of rugby league experience, and so we use this time to up skill all players to ensure that the fundamentals are in place.
“For those who are returning (U16s), it is a time for them to refresh their skills as well as demonstrate their progress since last year. This time of year is also used to get them used to the professional sports environment level of training and to introduce new techniques in strength & conditioning as well. So there’s lots for them to learn!”
Given that some of last year’s scholarship side have now progressed to the academy (Khush Ahktar, Sam Ajayi, Ryan Couch and Caley Gray) and others moved on for various reasons, what’s the process for recruiting new squad members?
“There are 14 U15s players from last year who have returned, and who are now our senior (U16s) players in the squad. We then have a new crop of around 30 players (U15s and U16s) currently trialling with us.
“We went through an extensive process of observing players in their community clubs, and also receiving nominations from community club coaches.
“The best players were chosen for the representative Origin series between North London and South London, and from that our 30 new players were invited to trial with us until Christmas.
“We have also just had an open trial day this weekend, which saw a further 40 players showcasing their effort and ability. From that, we will likely invite a few more to the programme for the short-term trial period.
“I also try to get out to community matches throughout the year to further identify any standout performers at community club level who may be suitable to come along to join our programme later in the season.
“As you can see, our recruitment process is extensive and dynamic and I’m proud of the level of effort that we go to in order to know the players in our region and the opportunities that we offer to all.
The under 16s currently train once a week, on a Wednesday night at Trailfinders. Headed up by Goodwin, the coaching/performance team also includes Rob Powell, John Isaacs, Yoni Charlupski, Ronnie Mushisho, Rachel Catherwood and Tom Rothberg.
What exactly does Huw consider a successful pre-season?
“For starters, I’d want all players to have given their utmost effort at all sessions and to have trained with a smile on their face.
“Equally important for me is to have seen progress from all players. I’d also want the boys who have been on the programme a year already to have consistently demonstrated a higher degree of technical ability indicative of being with us for longer.”
And how’s the enthusiasm in the squad so far?
“It’s great at the moment. They’re all keen and eager to impress and that’s being shown by their behaviours at training.
“A rugby league performance environment is tough and involves a lot of hard work – that’s not negotiable. However, what we try to do as a coaching team (and club as a whole) is to maintain the enthusiasm and enjoyment for the process. We want players to want to come to training.
“As I’ve said, there appears to be a strong squad this season and I’m excited to see the players develop even further as the season progresses.
“I think we have some strong individuals at U16s, but it’s always interesting to see how these returning players respond to the new competition coming from the influx of new talent. We’re hoping the competition brings the best out of them.
“Ideally I want all players to develop and to have enjoyed being part of the programme. From a target point of view, we will want as many players as possible to step up to our Academy squad. However, that’s not an easy task and so if we can get more than the previous year then I will be happy.”