Wigan Warriors star Dom Manfredi's plea to make reserves mandatory

Dom Manfredi scored two tries in the Grand Final
Dom Manfredi scored two tries in the Grand Final

Dom Manfredi says he owes his Grand Final heroics – and his new contract – to the fact Wigan had a reserve side last year.

And as the issue about Super League’s failure to bring in a second-string competition again rages, the winger has urged clubs to make it compulsory.

Manfredi underlined the importance the reserves plays not only for youngsters, but also injured players returning to fitness.

He spent two years on the sidelines battling successive, serious knee injuries and – given his return to fitness was after the loan deadline – he believes he would still be waiting to play a match if he hadn’t had the chance to prove his fitness in a second-string match.

He, of course, went on to re-establish himself back in the Warriors side and was their two-try star at Old Trafford last month.

Wigan last week rewarded him with a new three-year contract but it isn’t hard for the academy-product to imagine very different circumstances.

“If Wigan didn’t have a reserves last season, and I didn’t get those two games in first, I wouldn’t have played last season – without a doubt,” he said defiantly.

“I wouldn’t have played in the Grand Final. No way would they have picked me after two years out, without a game in first, and you couldn’t blame them.

“Credit to Wigan for doing it. I think every club needs to buy into having a reserves, not just a couple.

“I 100 per cent think it should be mandatory – too many players are getting lost from the game.”

Despite their vocal support for the reserves, Warriors admitted last week they may consider scrapping plans for a reserve team in 2019.

It isn’t that they don’t believe, or want, to have a side – but the fact they won’t have enough quality opponents to face.

With St Helens and Warrington not resurrecting their reserves, it has left Wakefield and Hull FC as the only other Super League clubs on board.

Four teams from Championship and League One will complete the seven outfits who will have reserves playing on a friendly basis.

Executive director Kris Radlinski believes it is “crazy” that reserves is not mandatory and says all head of youths and ex-players believe it is the best pathway for youngsters.

Anyone too old for the Under-19s will have to gain experience playing on loan, or dual-registration (a week-to-week loan arrangement) for lower-league clubs.

“It is 100 per cent the right pathway, but the competition is not what we wanted and not what we bought into,” said Radlinski.

“What we want is a competition which provides players with the next step down from Super League.

“Playing a Championship club’s reserve team, with all due respect, is not the next step down. So we have to look at it.

“When we saw the teams involved it was disappointing for us, having said we were fully committed to it.”

He hopes a competitive reserve league – with St Helens and Warrington, two clubs who have previously backed the system – could be in place for 2020, but admits it has yet to be discussed at Super League board level.

“I think if we do end up pulling out it may send a real message,” said Radlinski. “In the next 12 months hopefully it will become mandatory but we don’t know at this stage.”

Manfredi, meanwhile, said it was an easy decision to sign a new deal.

“When Rads approached me I was pretty shocked, it was too good to turn down,” he said. “It was the quickest deal I ever signed, negotiations didn’t take long at all!

“I’m still in dreamland about the Grand Final, it’s not sunk in. It’s all unbelievable.”