Posted: Wednesday 26th May 2021

Club Statement: Elite Academy Licence

Castleford Tigers will formally begin a process of challenging The RFL’s decision to not award the Club an Elite Academy Licence for 2022-27.

Castleford Tigers continue to be incredibly disappointed with the decision made by the Rugby Football League after submitting what the Club considered to be a strong, in-depth application. In the opinion of Castleford Tigers, the process was unfair to clubs with long-standing Academy products still within their club, and still within Super League.

Castleford Tigers believes that the Club is currently fourth in the table for Super League appearances made by Academy products who are currently playing in Super League, this includes both at the Tigers and at other clubs. This is further evidenced by nine home-grown players in Castleford’s 21-man squad declaration ahead of the Super League fixture against Leeds Rhinos on Friday night.

The Tigers Academy system has a history of producing First Team players, which is shown by the current 2021 First Team squad which includes homegrown talents such as Michael Shenton, Adam Milner, Nathan Massey, Oliver Holmes, James Clare, Greg Eden, and Liam Watts, who have all come through the Club’s youth system.

A point that was detailed in the early feedback received from the RFL was that the club has been bottom of the league for producing First Team players since 2014. However, over the past five years, Castleford’s Academy has been involved in bringing through ten players that have gone on to represent the club at Super League level. These names include Tom Holmes, Connor Fitzsimmons, Brandon Douglas, Jake Trueman, Calum Turner, Jacques O’Neill, Lewis Peachey, Sam Hall, Brad Graham and Bailey Hodgson.

One of our most recent Academy graduates who is among those names, Bailey Hodgson, has gone on to join up with National Rugby League side Newcastle Knights. This further illustrates that our system has demonstrated the ability to bring through quality young players that have gone on to represent Castleford at First Team level and beyond.

Over the last five years, our young talents have drawn the attention of many clubs from both codes which not only demonstrates their ability but the fact that players are happy in our youth environment, as well as feel that our provision is meeting their needs as young players. Despite generous contract offers these players committed their future to our club for such reasons. The recent progress made by the likes of Lewis Peachey for example demonstrates the Tigers’ ability to identify and produce talent.

Recently Castleford Tigers has increased its investment to develop our staffing footprint around our youth development provision which is aimed at nurturing and increasing the level of our Academy recruits. These developments include:

  • Highly experienced and Level 3 qualified head coaches at both Scholarship and Under 19’s level.
  • Nutrition and mental skills provision at both Scholarship and Academy level (this provision did not exist at the Academy level in 2016).
  • The appointment of a Junior Talent Identification Lead Officer who coordinates all scouting activity and personnel.
  • The appointment of a Scholarship Parent/Guardian education lead.
  • Suitably experienced Head Coach identified for Reserves in 2022 who is currently working towards Level 3 qualification and working as an assistant coach with the current Under 19’s with players transition into the Reserves team in mind.
  • Partnerships with two local universities around nutrition, sports psychology and strength and conditioning provision with informal discussions ongoing around sports science.

In addition to this, discussions are ongoing with a suitably qualified and experienced person to lead on internal coach development activity with our Tigers Talent Pathway, Scholarship and Academy levels.

We feel our staffing footprint is fully comprehensive and strongly meets the development needs of our players. Furthermore, these staffing improvements showcases that the Club is highly invested in making our system as well rounded as it can be to cater for all player needs.

Although the information above illustrates how the Club are committed to increasing the number of Academy players that reach the First Team level, the Academy and Castleford Tigers Foundation work hand in hand to increase involvement in the local community.

Our Tigers Talent Pathway (TTP) is an incredibly popular programme that gets children from under 12 to under 16 levels involved in a variety of high-quality sessions which could then lead on to joining our youth system.

The prime example of this pathway is exhibited by both Sam Hall and Lewis Peachey who were both involved in our TTP programme at a young age, these two young men then progressed into our Academy system and the pair have gone on to make senior appearances in Super League.

The Castleford Tigers College provides young people with a different pathway too, with the college supplying over 70 courses, at all levels, for young people and adults of all ages. Students come from around the county to take up courses which can lead to them gaining a University education.

We also have partnerships with other organisations which further increase our influence in our community, these include:

  • A partnership with Leeds Beckett University around nutrition and sports psychology provision.
  • A partnership with Leeds Trinity University around Strength and Conditioning and supply of coaches.
  • A Tigers Talent Pathway East Midlands in partnership with Nottingham Outlaws Rugby League Club.

The impression the Castleford Tigers’ Academy has on producing First Team talents in our game and the wide-reaching impact it has on the local community is clear to see.

Castleford Tigers Rugby League Football Club believes that the decision to not award the Club with an Elite Academy Licence from 2022-2027 is detrimental; to the welfare and careers of the 70+ young players, the Club has on its youth programmes currently, to the Tigers’ local community clubs who have players who dream of playing for Castleford Tigers, and to long term planning of homegrown talent playing at our Club.