There was always going to be an issue with some of the younger players given how the pandemic meant pretty much all of 2020 got written off in terms of the Academy season.
It has been 18 months for some of them since they last played. Fixtures do start up again this Friday but it’s a truncated season running until September, not all clubs are featuring and it is not a league format.
At Hull, we have a core group of six or seven Academy players ranging from people like Ben McNamara, who has played a few games, to blokes who are just coming in and just looking for that opportunity and haven’t made their mark yet.
Ben’s probably the lucky one that he’s been able to play in Super League whereas there are some who have not been able to play for 18 months.
That’s obviously 18 months of their development without playing a game. If you were involved in that youth programme, it would be disappointing.
We’ve had some players come in and do really well but they don’t get to do it often in a game situation.
It’s been difficult for that group of players and the Academy at Hull had started to arrange some games between themselves with college teams and the like.
Obviously, there has been some rustiness and it once more brings up the argument about the Reserves – cancelled again for 2021 – and how important that is.
With the Academy out of action as well, it shows that we need to have players playing as often as possible in order to aid their development and to become Super League players.
With that in mind, there have been plenty of loan moves between clubs already.
Huddersfield Giants have sent Ronan Michael and George Roby out, Yusuf Aydin went from Wakefield to York and Castleford’s Lewis Peachey also went there.
It will be really important for younger players that they do get to go out on loan – although many are already getting chances at their parent clubs.
Leeds Rhinos, for instance, are struggling with injuries and I’m sure there’s some players there – like Corey Hall – that got picked to play over the last few weeks that probably haven’t played in 18 months and got thrown in at the deep end.
We’re also a bit thin on the ground ourselves which is one of the reasons why Connor Wynne got brought back from York City Knights to play in Saturday’s Challenge Cup win against Wigan.
But loan moves will be really important for players’ development across the competition this year and also so that when it comes to playing at Super League level they have some minutes under their belt.
Finding a way and a strategy in who you loan and making sure they go and get some minutes in their legs will be really important for a lot of clubs.
It will be interesting to see what the knock-on effect of Covid-19 on players’ fitness will be and whether it does affect the number of injuries we see this year. I’m sure they’ll be plenty of smarter people than me looking into studies on that kind of area.
But it would be reasonable to think there is a link with what we’re seeing now.
It’s not always the immediate effect of putting in so many games in such a short period of time as players did last year when coming back from lockdown and doing so really well.
It may be that it is after a bit of an off-season and then back into it that there is a bit of a lag with just what effects that had on the players. Only time will tell.
We all wear GPS and it will be interesting to see if it had an effect.
A lot of players played a lot of minutes and I can see it being a reason why we’re getting injuries.
But the good thing is British players are getting opportunities a little bit earlier than maybe they expected. We’ve said to some of our younger players who have been in for pre-season, that they may get called upon at some stage so they need to be ready.
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