Foundation to launch new North vs South Player Development Series in 2022

Leeds Rhinos Foundation is delighted to launch a pioneering new Rugby League development programme open to Under 16s and 18s players from across the city of Leeds.

The ‘North v South Player Development Series’ will launch this summer during the school holidays, with players not connected to a professional club scholarship or academy who are looking to take their next steps towards furthering their rugby league careers invited to work with top community coaches on an exciting six-week player development programme.

This will culminate in a two game ‘Origin’ series in August between two sides consisting of players from either North or South of the River Aire, who will reignite an age old ‘rivalry’ in the city of Leeds.

The double header will give these young players in the city a fantastic opportunity to continue their development and express their skills in a competitive and challenging player development environment under the watchful eye of the Rhinos Pathway coaching staff, with potential pathway opportunities into the Leeds Rhinos Academy and the Leeds Rhinos Development Academy, run in conjunction with Leeds City College.

It is also a great chance for any local community coaches who have aspirations to improve their coaching practice to gain wider experience working in a player development environment. The programme is also Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s first step in starting to re-create pathway opportunities for local coaches to progress.

It will be the first time that a ‘North vs South’ fixture has taken place in the city since Leeds Rhinos Foundation ran their successful u13s and u14s Challenge fixtures back in 2014, which were highly regarded by both players and coaches alike as a great way to promote both player and coach development.

Explaining the reasons for re-launching the North vs South programme, Darren Higgins, Head of Rugby League Development for Leeds Rhinos Foundation, said: “Within the Foundation, our development staff do an outstanding job with regard to increasing junior participation for local clubs. However, like most sports we see a drop off in participation at older age groups with many misconceptions around players not being able to progress in the game if they are not selected onto scholarships.

“What this programme aims to do, is not only provide high quality player development opportunities for local players but help with retaining players in the game and connect to the clubs academy programme and offer different player pathway routes with the programme also being run for younger age groups in future years. We will also look to remodel our ETP programme in October which will again see more opportunities for players not selected at scholarship level, which will no doubt benefit the game locally and offer ongoing opportunities for aspiring players of all ages.”

Sam Horner, Community Clubs Development Officer, added: “We’re keen to ensure this programme does not only include player development, but also opportunities for coaches from the local community game to work on the programme and improve their coaching practice as a result.

“This is in turn will benefit local clubs, with best practice being cascaded into club environments. We are very mindful that the coaching pathways and opportunities to progress further in the game as a coach are not what they once were, so hopefully this programme will be the start of providing more meaningful opportunities for them to progress if they have aspirations to do so.”

Details of how to register for the North vs South Player Development Series will be announced in the next couple of weeks, with more information to follow. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @RugbyLeeds for all the latest news.