5th June 2018, 09:22
Super Saturday for WRL as new young players and new referees are discovered
It was a Super Saturday for the development of Rugby League in Wales last weekend where both new young players and new referees were discovered.
Young players are put through their paces by the coaches.
At the Centre for Sporting Excellence in Ystrad Mynach, 80 youngsters aged between 14 and 16, many of whom had never played rugby league before, went to open trials for the Wales under 16 side.
And just over the mountain at Sardis Road in Pontypridd, nine new match officials were being trained with some being thrust into the deep end and taking charge of junior games the next day.
It was an exciting day at Ystrad Mynach. The Wales under 16 side were brought into the national limelight last year after beating England for the first time ever at that level. Most of those players have since trained with and some have turned out of Super League club academies and many have now been selected for this year’s Wales under 19 squad.
The number of potential codebreakers amplifies this. Over half of the 80 who attended are not yet registered to a rugby league club but that didn’t stop their talent showing through.
The players, who came from all over Wales, as well as the North West of England, Yorkshire, Humberside and London, were separated into five teams. The trial itself consisted of five activities which incorporated skills based assessments, before the players moved into five 18 minute full contact trial games.
Wales v England under 16s from 2017
In 2018 Wales will once again face England and head coach Jason Seddon is not overly phased by the task at hand, given the talent on show at the trial and the squad he will have at his disposal.
He said: “We did expect that the trial would provide us with some selection headaches, but probably not as many as we are going to have after today. Its enormously encouraging for the sport as a whole in Wales to have such a strong pool of young players with so much potential in this representative programme, the opportunity to bring them all together like this and work with them at such a great facility is quite a privilege for myself and all the coaches within our group".
“We are certainly further on this year in terms of our off-field organisation, our coaching group has some new additions which I am really pleased with and it’s likely we will see an improvement on the field. However it’s important we don't get ahead of ourselves and we just focus on creating a really good environment that the players enjoy being part of whilst they continue to learn and develop as young people and of course rugby league players.
“England will be very good, I have absolutely no doubt about that, and last year’s result will be something they will not want a repeat of so I expect they will be ready to go come September 1st. That said, so will we and our focus will not necessarily be on England, it will be more about us preparing to be the best we can be on the day. If we do that well, then given the talent we have in Wales it’s going to be difficult for any team to come here and take something from the game. But that's quite a way down the track and we just need to ensure we give all the players the best opportunity possible for them to be part of that fixture. Everything else will take care of itself once we get to kick off time.”
Matt Brooks, junior coach and now rugby league referee
The referee’s course was every bit as essential for the future of the game in Wales as there are now up to three senior and six junior domestic matches on most weekends in South Wales throughout the summer.
The participants were put through their paces in a two hour classroom session going through the basic rules of the game. After this they spent another hour on the field where they were shown how to officiate specific field positions or activities including scrums, kick chases and offsides, the try line and in goal area and also touch judging.
After this, they sat in the stand and watched the referee who was officiating in the Rhondda Outlaws v Cardiff Blue Dragons game, one of three matches played in the Welsh Premier League that day.
WRL’s national development manager Paul Chambers said: “Congratulations to all of the participants who successfully completed the course, and especially to those who then had a baptism of fire and refereed junior games the next morning.
“A big thank you to Ian Curzon for leading the course. There will be another course organised in West Wales in the next few weeks."
Needing a referee for his own side the next day, Matt Brooks took charge of Llanelli Knights v Penlan Wild Stallions under 13s, which was played as a curtain raiser to West Wales Raiders v Newcastle Thunder.
The Swansea-based Brooks said: “I found the Referee course very helpful and informative. Both theoretical and practical aspects were delivered brillialy in my opinion. The course with assistance from the West Wales Raiders coaching team, helped me referee my first under 13s game successfully. Thanks to all involved.”
Aber Valley Wolves general manager Helen Treherne was also pleased to see new referees especially as there was an influx of players wanted to turn out at their under 13 encounter against Cardiff Blue Dragons on Sunday. Both sides turned up with over 30 players so they were able to have a 25-minute additional “development” game.
She said: “It was a successful extra 25 minutes between the Wolves and Dragons under 13s on Sunday. I think all the boys benefitted, especially those who were new to the game. It was also a great opportunity to ease the newly qualified referees in too.”