IAN Lenagan last night explained why he labelled the current reserve-level set-up as “a shambles”.
The Wigan chairman made the passing remark in a club press release which revealed young forward Connor Farrell was joining Widnes on loan this season.
This year, a reserve-level competition has been revived to try and solve problems Wigan, and some other clubs, had faced with the dual-registration system.
But by labelling it a “shambles” Lenagan made it clear he didn’t think it would be enough for fringe players like 22-year-old Farrell.
And elaborating on his comment last night, he told the Evening Post: “We needed competitive games for our talented young players and fringe first-team players.
“We believe that the RFL had two or three attempts to do that and I have to praise John Roberts, he did very well trying to put together a schedule, but it proved impossible to suit everyone’s needs.”
Wigan wanted a reserves league comprised of willing North West clubs, in a round-robin competitive league.
Instead, they have been handed a shoestring reserve fixture list with just nine games – three of those matches in February. They have no matches in March, only one in April, and four spread out over the summer months.
And because the likes of Warrington and St Helens are playing games against the reserve teams of lower-league clubs such as Keighley and Dewsbury – a move Wigan opposed, fearing mismatches – it makes it difficult for them to arrange additional games.
The desire to revive the reserves came from some clubs becoming disillusioned with the dual-registration system, in which fringe players turned out for lower-league clubs on a week-to-week basis.
That arrangement ended at the end of July (when the Super 8s split occurred), leaving players too old for the Under-19s – such as Farrell and Lewis Tierney – kicking their heels in frustration on the sidelines, unable to play a game at any level.
While this new structure is an improvement, Lenagan clearly doesn’t feel it is suitable for the needs of their promising players – hence his description of it as “a shambles”.
Indeed, Farrell may well have added to his nine first-team appearances to date had he remained at Wigan this year.
But, with no satisfactory reserve system to play in for the rest of the time, Wigan felt it was best for his development to play at Widnes, where he is expected to figure more prominently.
As part of the deal, the 22-year-old forward has extended his contract with his hometown club until 2018.
“We believe this move (to Widnes) will help Connor achieve more senior game time which will help him improve as a player and allow him the chance to show his capabilities regularly on the Super League stage,” added Lenagan. “Connor has a major future at the Wigan club and we have extended his contract until the end of 2018 to reflect the year away.”
He is the second Wigan player to go on loan this season after Ryan Hampshire moved to Castleford - in a move which also extend his deal with his parent club.