Wane wants better reserves league

Shaun Wane and Tony Smith are fans of the reserve competition
Shaun Wane and Tony Smith are fans of the reserve competition

Shaun Wane and Warrington counterpart Tony Smith have reiterated their calls for a better reserves system.

The two sides met at Robin Park yesterday, with five unanswered second-half tries helping Wigan to a 40-10 win.

The top-five last year all had a form of reserves

Tony Smith

It was the first of only eight reserve games for Wigan this year – all of them against Hull FC, St Helens or Warrington.

The second-tier was brought back last year to try and plug the gap between Under-19s and first-team.

But Super League clubs are not compelled to run them and many choose not to, while Salford and Leigh are not running Under-19s side this year.

Chairman Ian Lenagan branded the reserves system “shambolic” last year.

With so few matches, Wane still uses the dual-registration system - allowing fringe players to be loaned to lower-league clubs on a week-by-week basis - but admits it is far from ideal.

“A perfect scenario would be a proper reserve competition, playing under our coaches, under our system, on our ground and with us watching,” said Wane.

“If a player goes to Workington (on dual-registration), I get the footage on the Thursday, they’re playing in a different system.

“So when someone goes and plays for another club, we make it really simple and say just hit hard.

“If you do that, we can add on the bits around that, but it is tough.”

Counterpart Smith sees some benefits in the fact the reserves are ‘friendlies’ - not least the flexibility to postpone matches if injuries bite into the squads - but says having a proper reserves would only serve to strengthen the English game.

“My general philosophy is, with a strong administration and good competition, you want to have a reserve grade,” he said.

“Playing pool is always spoken about in terms of competing with Australia, and we seem to be reducing ours. We’re making sacrifices to get ready for a World Cup with training camps and all sorts of things, to enhance England’s chances - producing more players would take a big step towards developing a better England.

“It doesn’t have to be for two competition points, when Wigan and Warrington play each other, I tell you it’s a full on match.”

Some clubs decide not to run reserve teams as a cost-cutting measure, and Smith hopes sustained-success by those who do take part will convince others to get on board.

“It hasn’t been expensive - it cost us £35,000 all-up last year, and it was well-spent,” said Smith.

“I can’t prove it gives us an advantage, but the fact the top-five last year all had a form of reserves, forms an argument to have it.

“At the moment the stance is you can’t force clubs to invest - the owners decide where they put their money, not the RFL.

“It’s about convincing the owners this is the best way to develop more players.”

Yesterday, Luke Waterworth scored twice in the first half before further tries came from Tom Davies, Callum Field, Joe Pilling, Josh Ganson, and Josh Houghton rounded off the scoring as Wigan fought back from 10-0 down early on to keep their opponents scoreless in the second half.