WAKEFIELD may be well known for its Super League rugby league club but another city institution is also playing a big part in producing top young players for the game.
Wakefield College has dominated the student rugby league scene in recent years, winning back-to-back Yorkshire Cups and Carnegie Champion Colleges competitions, as well as seeing both of its teams win their respective league campaigns last season.
In the process, the college’s Rugby League Development Centre (RLDC) has helped talented youngsters progress to sign professional deals and even represent their country.
More success is targeted this year, with the college’s first team sitting top of the Yorkshire Colleges Premier League table and ready for the defence of their county and national cup titles.
But although winning trophies is enjoyable for all the players and staff involved in the rugby league set-up, coach Mick Bamford is just eager to help his players have a fruitful future in the sport.
“We want to give players who have perhaps not made it a second chance,” said Bamford.
“In football the players are picked up quiet early and it might be too late at the age we’re picking these lads up at, but it’s not the case in rugby league.
“If players aren’t on scholarships they can come to the college and get a second bite of the cherry.
“Players missed by the system have a chance to be noticed here at the Rugby League Development Centre and improve their skills.”
Bamford and his fellow coaches, who include Mark Helme, the RLDC coordinator and Batley Bulldogs player Mark Applegarth, have already helped a number of players further their careers.
Liam Ellis signed for Championship side Sheffield Eagles last year, while Harry Carter moved to York City Knights. Former student Jamie Crowther also enjoyed a switch to the Knights before moving to play for the University of Gloucestershire All Golds and Chad Moss caught the eye of Featherstone Rovers.
A number of players have also featured for Yorkshire and England Colleges thanks to hard work within the RLDC.
“We have a hand in putting them in the right direction,” Bamford continued.
“In the first year we focus mainly on conditioning and hopefully in the second players will be picked up by clubs.
“We’ve had professional clubs coming down and looking at our players, such as Wakefield, Featherstone and York and that justifies the work that we, and the students, are doing.”
The team is run as part of the college’s Athletic Development Programme, with a squad of 17 players in the RLDC and another ‘Time Out’ squad.
As well as playing rugby league, students have academic studies to follow and have refereeing and coaching courses available to develop other skills.
The college also formed a link with the University of Gloucestershire last year to give students a pathway to progress both academically and in rugby league.
This year’s students will have the chance to shine when league matches resume against Huddersfield New College and Leeds City College before their defence of the Yorkshire Cup begins.