Youth development is very much a big part of the future for the Robins with CEO Mike Smith revealing that significant investment has been made in that area of the club over the past few months.
During the close season, plenty of work has been quietly going on to improve the academy set-up at the KC Lightstream Stadium and Smith is confident that the club will continue to move forward on that front.
“We had an audit from the RFL on the academy set-up a while back which wasn’t too favourable,” he told hullkr.co.uk. “Since then, we’ve been working hard to get to the standards where we want to be as a club, and also where the RFL require us to be. The addition of the new directors to the board has meant that we’ve been able to invest the appropriate funding into the academy set-up and that has been a big help.
“As a board of directors we sat down and identified the areas of our academy that needed strengthening and that work has been going on for the past few months now. We were previously a ‘grade four’ club but have now been upgraded to a ‘grade three’ so that is a big step in the right direction.
“We’re also very conscious of the fact that bringing through your own talent is very important, especially with the way the game is going. You’re not going to get the influx of overseas players that used to come into Super League and it’s a case of bringing over three or four good imports and then adding them into a good squad of experienced and up and coming British players.
“The likes of Liam Salter, Kris Welham, James Green, Jordan Cox, Aaron Ollett, Josh Guzdek, Sonny Esslemont, Connor Robinson, Matty Beharrell, Macauley Hallett and Steve Holker have all come through our academy set-up and now find themselves as part of the first team squad. Some of those players are established as senior players whilst others are still making their way in the game but it shows that we have been bringing the talent through. We want that to continue and that’s why we’ve looked so closely at our academy and made improvements in many different areas.”
One of the big changes is the number of the full-time staff employed on the academy side of things with several additions having been made in recent months.
“We have Pete Grayburn (Head of Youth), Rob Nickolay (Player Performance Manager) and Shaun Briscoe (Partnership Liaison Officer) heading up the department,” Smith added. “We also have Brice Johnson taking charge of the strength and conditioning for the U19s and Rob Dawson doing the same for the U16s.
“Beyond that, all of our scholarship and academy coaching staff are now employed part-time by the club, whereas in the past they have worked on a voluntary basis. We’re also expanding our scouting network and Shaun (Briscoe) spends a lot of time around the schools and junior amateur clubs helping to educate their coaches. That helps us to forge links with them and means that we can keep a close eye on all of the best young talent in the area.
“When it comes to recruiting scholarship players we’re obviously up against Hull FC locally and we need to do everything we can to make us an attractive proposition for these young kids. It’s not just the rugby side of things that’s important – the education and welfare aspects are equally as important.
“We put seminars on for the young lads in areas such as nutrition and lifestyle choices which is all part of their all-round development. We also hosted a seminar in the north stand for amateur coaches on nutrition recently and over 150 people turned out which was great. If we can help to educate the coaches who will then in turn educate the young players who we may bring to the club on scholarship terms, then all the better as everybody wins.”