Inside rugby league's stagnant recruitment market as clubs struggle to identify new signings

Got something to discuss about RL in general? Then this is the place to post it.
Post Reply
josie andrews
Posts: 27302
Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 10:17 pm
Location: Wigan
Contact:

Inside rugby league's stagnant recruitment market as clubs struggle to identify new signings

Post by josie andrews » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:34 pm

A number of clubs are finding it harder than ever to strengthen their squads due to various issues

It's an exciting time of year in the world of rugby league with the recruitment window opening, allowing clubs to start signing new players for the 2022 season.

For fans, it's a period that comes with both anticipation and expectation as they await to hear news of who their club will be bringing in ahead of the next campaign.

But for clubs and their deal brokers, the market is currently a serious cause for concern.

In the five weeks since opening, business has been relatively vibrant. Warrington and Castleford have been particularly active, signing several players, while Huddersfield have also been quick to get deals done, with Theo Fages and Tui Lolohea understood to be on their way to the club.

But the concern for most clubs is the lack of depth currently available to sign.

This was telling in the case of James Harrison, the Featherstone Rovers forward who has signed for Warrington Wolves next year.

Barring a handful of Super League appearances last year for Leeds, Harrison had no top-flight experience and at 24, is by no means a teenager with immense potential.

Yet five clubs ended up battling it out for the prop's services, including top-end teams such as Leeds Rhinos and Hull FC. It's an almost unheard of case for a Championship player.

The same can be said of Joe Bullock, another prop on his way to Warrington, who had even more clubs clamouring to secure him for 2022.

At present, clubs are finding it particularly difficult to sign middle men, purely down to a lack of options available. Wakefield Trinity are one example of a club struggling to overcome the shortage of talent, having now spent almost 12 months looking to recruit a player to strengthen their pack.

The club has undergone a worldwide search for a new recruit but has had no joy thus far, with head coach Chris Chester summarising the situation.

"There are no real players of quality that we feel is going to improve this team," he said.

"It just seems that every year, the same players get regurgitated. I don't want to be disrespectful but that's just the game at the minute, there isn't enough quality.

"We've spoken to a lot of Australian agents and a lot of English agents. The Aussies are reluctant to release anybody because of the high shots and suspensions that have gone through the roof.

"We thought we were close to a player in the NRL and that didn't work out. We're hopeful with the quota spot that we can entice someone before the signing deadline.

"It's just a waiting process."

Privately, the situation is concerning many clubs, who are growing more frustrated at the state of the player pool and how they can strengthen their squads, rather than let them regress.

It has resulted in many of the top free agents being snapped up quickly. Warrington had to overcome very competitive offers from Hull KR, Catalans and St Helens to retain Toby King but St Helens weren't as fortunate in their attempts to keep Theo Fages at the club. Another of their top talents, James Bentley, is also inundated with interest as of writing.

The issue has been compounded by Covid. Financially, clubs are trying to cut their cloth, resulting in smaller budgets to compete with an already cash-rich NRL, while the ongoing challenges the UK is facing has put many off the prospect of making the move from overseas.

Some clubs are now taking different approaches. While some clubs are playing a waiting game in the hope of landing a big deal later in the process, others are moving to secure the best that's available.

Eyebrows have been raised by Wigan's pursuit of Leigh duo Iain Thornley and Nathan Mason, who both look set to make the move from a winless Super League side to one that featured in last year's Grand Final.

Many Wigan fans took to social media to express how underwhelmed they were by the news. But in reality, it is a reflection of the current market.

Other clubs, certainly those with less money, are likely to use some of their quota spots on project signings, given the lack of other options. We've already seen that start to happen with Leeds Rhinos signing King Vuniyayawa, a relative unknown, to occupy their final overseas spot this year.

Eventually, more NRL players will emerge, but it's unlikely that there will be enough to match the supply.
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage.

Wiganer Ted
Posts: 2636
Joined: Fri Apr 25, 2014 9:31 pm

Re: Inside rugby league's stagnant recruitment market as clubs struggle to identify new signings

Post by Wiganer Ted » Mon Jun 07, 2021 9:09 pm

There's the World Cup and very often a number of players find themselves playing SL the following season. Whether this happen this time around remains to be seen but I wouldn't be surprised at SL clubs finding talent from the World Cup.

the pieman
Posts: 487
Joined: Sun May 22, 2005 5:34 pm

Re: Inside rugby league's stagnant recruitment market as clubs struggle to identify new signings

Post by the pieman » Tue Jun 08, 2021 8:23 am

lack of academy / reserve teams must be biting the game on its arse too. If there isnt a talent pool coming through from all clubs and a pathway for the players, then sooner or later the market will be really stagnent

it is on the clubs to produce the player pool, and it seems that there are only a handful that have invested in this and produce players on a regular basis. Whilst all players developed wont make it at their respective clubs, it does produce a talent pool to spread across all the leagues. The majority that dont make it, will come from Wigan / Saints etc, and can go on to have good careers at other SL clubs, however, the lack of talent being produced elsewhere is showing the reliance that the game has on a small number of clubs to keep producing year after year. Unless the clubs are forced to do work in the community (build relationships with local clubs) and develop their own academy / reserve teams, then this situation will only get worse, with the player pool drying up and more of a reliance on a small number of clubs / overseas players

medlocke
Posts: 8782
Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2006 11:57 am
Contact:

Re: Inside rugby league's stagnant recruitment market as clubs struggle to identify new signings

Post by medlocke » Tue Jun 08, 2021 8:29 am

Thank you Gary Hetherington

nathan_rugby
Posts: 2632
Joined: Sun Apr 23, 2006 9:12 pm

Re: Inside rugby league's stagnant recruitment market as clubs struggle to identify new signings

Post by nathan_rugby » Tue Jun 08, 2021 9:02 am

the pieman wrote:
Tue Jun 08, 2021 8:23 am
lack of academy / reserve teams must be biting the game on its arse too. If there isnt a talent pool coming through from all clubs and a pathway for the players, then sooner or later the market will be really stagnent

it is on the clubs to produce the player pool, and it seems that there are only a handful that have invested in this and produce players on a regular basis. Whilst all players developed wont make it at their respective clubs, it does produce a talent pool to spread across all the leagues. The majority that dont make it, will come from Wigan / Saints etc, and can go on to have good careers at other SL clubs, however, the lack of talent being produced elsewhere is showing the reliance that the game has on a small number of clubs to keep producing year after year. Unless the clubs are forced to do work in the community (build relationships with local clubs) and develop their own academy / reserve teams, then this situation will only get worse, with the player pool drying up and more of a reliance on a small number of clubs / overseas players
This is exactly the issue. Rugby League in England is so dependent on young players being produced as there isn't the money nor availability to fill the team with overseas players.

The whole lack of academy / reserve team is already having an impact and when you combine that with the decline of amateur rugby league and no real optimism for it improving, the future looks very bleak for Rugby League.

When you look at Wigan, we have first team players who are aged 19-21 who have barely played rugby over the last few years.
Bomhead - "Lockers to prop."

widdenoldboy
Posts: 510
Joined: Thu Oct 07, 2010 10:25 pm

Re: Inside rugby league's stagnant recruitment market as clubs struggle to identify new signings

Post by widdenoldboy » Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:00 am

Another good thread based on careful analysis. If this is accurate then Wigan could be well placed moving forward. TBH the lack of a reserve grade was RL shooting itself in the foot once again and we lost promising youngsters once they hit 20 and had to be let go or moved around the Championship. Typical bad luck with Covid meant reserves were cancelled after 1 (IIRC) season but will be back in place in 2022. I hope that some of the less than impressive signings of late are to provide experience for the younger prospects in the Reserves.

User avatar
Firestarter
Posts: 3376
Joined: Fri Mar 20, 2015 10:07 pm

Re: Inside rugby league's stagnant recruitment market as clubs struggle to identify new signings

Post by Firestarter » Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:08 am

widdenoldboy wrote:
Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:00 am
Another good thread based on careful analysis. If this is accurate then Wigan could be well placed moving forward. TBH the lack of a reserve grade was RL shooting itself in the foot once again and we lost promising youngsters once they hit 20 and had to be let go or moved around the Championship. Typical bad luck with Covid meant reserves were cancelled after 1 (IIRC) season but will be back in place in 2022. I hope that some of the less than impressive signings of late are to provide experience for the younger prospects in the Reserves.
Have the leigh lads officially signed then?
IF YOU STRIKE ME DOWN I WILL BECOME MORE POWERFUL THAN YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE

Post Reply