AS SOMEONE who played Reserve Grade as a promising teenager and now as a gnarled veteran, Danny Washbrook is well-placed to offer an insight into what it will bring in 2020.
At the weekend, the RFL finalised the line-up for the return of a fully-structured competition after years of an ad hoc format where clubs were not even obliged to field a team.
This term only two Super League clubs – Washbrook’s Hull FC and Wakefield Trinity – ran a reserve side alongside just four others: Bradford Bulls, Halifax, Featherstone Rovers and Keighley Cougars.
However, all 11 English Super League clubs will feature in 2020 along with Bradford, Widnes Vikings, Halifax and Newcastle Thunder in a 15-team division.
It is hoped it will help promote better player pathways and – rather than jumping directly up from Under 19s as previously – create a vital building block in preparing more to play at the elite level.
Hull utility player Washbrook – who turns 34 next month – has welcomed its return and said: “Obviously, I came through the reserves as a young lad so I can see the benefits for them.
“They get to play against men rather than just people their own age. It’s important.
“I remember playing against Feka (Paleaaesina) at Wigan. He and Amos Roberts absolutely ruined us. But the one who I can’t believe played – as he’s still going now – is Ben Westwood.
“I remember facing him when he first went to Warrington from Wakefield. Experiences like that make it good for youngsters coming through. Then, for the older blokes, if they’re not getting game-time or coming back from injury, it’s good for them, too.
“With every (Super League) team being involved next year I think it will be a massive positive.
“This year it was a little disappointing for the boys and coaches at Hull as it was one game here, then weeks off before the next. It was hard.”
Washbrook is now in the latter stages of his career and found first-team games hard to come by in 2019 meaning he has played for the club’s Reserve Grade and also on dual-registration with League 1 Doncaster.
What has the experience been like for someone who has played almost 300 Super League games?
“Personally, I preferred playing at Donny as it was a better standard than reserves,” he conceded, with Hull assistant coach and former team-mate Richard Horne in charge there.
“But that’s because the reserves have basically been thrown together by just the six clubs. Next year, though, with it going full tilt, then obviously the standard should be better.
“It’s struggled a little bit this year as some weeks we’ve had six players available for it and then others we haven’t had any. But 2020 will see a bigger squad.”
Washbrook played only his sixth Super League game of the year – and first since mid-June – in Sunday’s 26-16 win at his former club Wakefield.
“With a couple of people leaving, obviously it’s moved me up the pecking order a little bit!” joked the back-row, forwards Chris Green (Wakefield) and Dean Hadley/Jez Litten (both Hull KR) all having moved out on loan deals recently.
“And he (coach Lee Radford) told me a couple of days beforehand that I’d be playing so I got my head around it especially playing here (Wakefield).
“I don’t know if he did it on purpose, especially because it was here, but I enjoyed it.
“I enjoyed being back out there in Super League again.
“Coming on at half-back is something I probably wouldn’t have chosen! But just being out there was great.”