Clubb brands reserves system as “criminal”

Tony Clubb in action against Castleford
Tony Clubb in action against Castleford

Tony Clubb has labelled the absence of a compulsory reserve competition as “criminal”.

Wigan will showcase their second-string side in a curtain-raiser against Wakefield at the DW Stadium on Friday night ahead of the first-team game against Salford.

The Warriors and Trinity are the only two Super League clubs operating reserve sides this year. And prop Clubb said: “It should be compulsory that every club has a reserve side or something similar in place.

“A lot of teams have opted out of having reserves and I can’t see why – it’s madness.

“There are kids who are going to have fantastic careers, but sitting around for four or five weeks, doing nothing... they can train all they want but as a kid you just want to play.

“It’s criminal that the RFL doesn’t (enforce) a reserve system.”

The Rugby Football League support a reserve system but allows clubs to decide themselves whether they want to run them or not.

Most have opted not to – thought to be in a cost-cutting measure – instead sending fringe players who are too old for the Under-19s to play on dual-registration with lower-league clubs.

Clubb says young players aren’t the only ones who benefit from a reserve side.

“When I came back from injury, if Waney had said I’d have to do a week in reserves, I’d have been fine with that,” said the 30-year-old.

“Look at someone like Dom Manfredi what are we going to do with him (without a reserve team) when he’s back?

“Do you throw him into first-team, after so long out?”

The reserve league has had many guises, including an Under-21s which allowed three open age players, which was backed by a U18s below it.

“How can players get better if they’re not playing?” said Sam Powell, who progressed through the academy.

“I don’t know how they expect kids to get better when there’s no structure there.”

Shaun Wane and Sam Tomkins are among those who have criticised the current league-wide set-up, while Liam Marshall last week admitted he may have quit the sport had Wigan not had a reserves.

Friday’s reserve game kicks-off at 5.45pm and goes ahead at the DW as pitch maintenance work is planned after this weekend, during a spell when Wigan have several weeks on the road.

Warriors’ head of youth Matty Peet described reserves as “vital for the development of some players”.

“We’ll be putting out a strong side who will want to impress,” he added.