With school, exams, travel and many other factors to overcome during their preparation, Academy Head Coach, Jamie Langley, gives the low down on all things under 19.
“Yes, its a massive game. Wigan have always had a huge reputation, and their academies have been up there with the likes of Leeds, St Helens and Warrington. Aptly demonstrated now through the amount of young players making into their first team squads in Super League.
“I think we are all trying to emulate that process, too. The goal, of course is to bring young players through your system and culture, and take your first team forward in the future. Credit to Wigan, especially, for doing that. They are up there again this season, and are probably the strongest team in our competition leading the league table.”
“We have improved an awful lot this year. We carried a lot of our under 17 players through with us who are now under 18. They are the middle age players and they now understand a lot more of what is required of each of them.
“In fact, I think they understand the game of rugby league a lot more too, which is great. Due to this, we have made a lot of progress with them as individuals, and as a team unit as well. We’ve challenged a lot of teams this year, both home and away, which is a real improvement.”
“I probably wouldn’t say we’ve been unlucky. That’s not the expression I would use. I would say we’ve been in a lot more games this season where with 15 minutes to go we’ve either been 4-6 up or 4-6 points behind, and we’ve ended up drawing or not finding a way to win the game.
“I sat down with coaching staff, players and some of the senior players to address the issue, and we have now worked a lot more on the psychological aspects of being a rugby league player and instilled a lot more character, belief and grit into the boys.
“We’ve worked on this alongside the tactical aspect of training sessions, and that’s where we’ve improved the most. I think the boys now have the ability to go into games with a winning mentality. They genuinely feel they can go out there and get the results now, whereas with academies of the past here, I don’t feel did.”
“Well, up north the game is considered a way of life in places like Warrington, Castleford and the like. There’s a lot more experience within the game up there.
“The boys here haven’t had enough training hours, playing hours and purposeful practice hours, and that sometimes shows up in games. In the key moments you rely on people to do things that you expect to come naturally to them – like dive on a loose ball or to make a certain play at a certain time – things you take for granted when you’ve played the game since the age of 7.
“It’s like a built up a muscle memory that your brain triggers almost automatically, and because we haven’t built it up, it’s what we are drilling into them through the scholarship and academy so that it’;s there by the time they hit the first team.”
“Obviously it does make me feel proud, but at the end of the day that’s my job.
“We’ve seen the likes of Bienek, Bustin, Pointer, Adebiyi and Pearce-Paul come through to the full team only at the beginning of this season, and yes I am proud to watch their progress as they make their way on to, hopefully, great things in the game.
“I am a competitor and always will be. I played the game for many years, and first and foremost I want to win, but I understand that the job is about developing players and getting them to the first team.
“If we can get four like we did last year up in to the first team, we might get another two or three this year. Even if we get one, then we have a successful programme here.
“We have to take it year on year. I want these boys to play at the highest level of the game, and with the first team doing well in the Championship, its a good place for the academy players to be right now.”