Rob Nickolay sets out his plans as new head of youth development at Castleford Tigers

New Castleford Tigers head of youth development Rob Nickolay is excited to get going in his new role with the Super League club.

By Tony Harber
Monday, 24th January 2022, 1:39 pm
Updated Monday, 24th January 2022, 1:40 pm
New Castleford Tigers head of youth development Rob Nickolay. Picture: Castleford Tigers
New Castleford Tigers head of youth development Rob Nickolay. Picture: Castleford Tigers

Nickolay joined the Tigers last year as education and development manager, but will now head up the club's youth pathways, which includes their reserves, academy, scholarship and college programmes.

With a wealth of experience working at Super League clubs and as current coach of England Community Lions, the 32-year-old was the youngest coach to achieve the highest level of rugby league coaching in this country when he was just 26 and is considered one of the most respected coach educators in the sport.

“I’m massively excited, first and foremost to be associated with a club that has as much history and heritage as Castleford,” Nickolay told

Sign up to our daily Wakefield Express Today newsletter

“It is an exciting time to be a part of the new era with Radders (Lee Radford) and the new staff coming in, and it’s something I’m really excited to get started with.

“The role will encompass everything in terms of the youth that is involved within the club, from whether you pick up a rugby ball somewhere in Castleford it’ll be my job to try and make sure we find a pathway for that player to develop – both in the male and female game, and wider from that as well.”

Castleford have long held pride in homegrown players that have come through the academy ranks at Wheldon Road, with current first team squad players Liam Watts, Adam Milner, Nathan Massey, Greg Eden, Daniel Smith, James Clare, and Jacques O’Neill all progressing from their youth structure.

Furthermore, there is excitement at seeing their own youngsters developing at the elite level and trying to make their mark. Players such as Cain Robb, Sam Hall, Jason Qareqare, and Jack Sadler have all made their top-flight debuts in recent seasons.

“For us, that history and heritage is huge, it is for us to channel that and really tap into that and start building on it so we can add to that rich history of the club," explained Rob.

"Moving forward we have met with the scholarship and academy players and set some really robust standards, adding that layer of professionalism and what we think that looks like, and how we over time can provide the best pathway to reach the heights of Lee’s first team.”

With more routes than ever before into elite rugby league at the Tigers, Nickolay reaffirmed the club’s desire to bring through talent through various different means.

“No-one’s pathway looks the same, ultimately it’s finding what is right for that individual, meeting their development needs and as we push forward that we are making sure their individual needs are met by us as a club.

“Hopefully then they can push on and excel as far as they potentially can do. Going alongside that is the community game as well, we need to make sure that we really make strong links with the community game and we’re able to establish that, build on those, and support the local community within Castleford.”

Our region is a hotbed of rugby league and Nickolay is aiming to strengthen further Castleford Tigers’ connections with community and amateur clubs in and around the local community. This has already begun with Rob at the heart of the Tigers’ hosting a community club forum this month.

Rob continued: “There is a hell of a lot of fantastic clubs within the local area and I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to a couple of them already, wishing us all the best, but ultimately it is for us to find out what we can do better too. Showing that bit of humility if you like and putting ourselves out there to find out what they need from us, and how we can support them.

“That is what I’m excited about, getting to know people, forging those relationships and hopefully we can reap the rewards later on as a community, not just as the club.”

Back in June 2021, it was confirmed that Castleford Tigers would retain its Elite Academy Licence for a two-year period (2022-23), this came following an initial decision made by the Rugby Football League to not award the club. At the time the Tigers were extremely disappointed with the original decision and going forward Nickolay aims for the Tigers to be awarded the licence without issue in the future.

“100% for me we should be rated outstanding. Moving forward that is what I’m here for, to make sure that we not only achieve a licence but exceed one. I would like us to be a blueprint of what talent development looks like in rugby league and people might say that is ambitious, but for me, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we could achieve that.

“It shouldn’t be questioned in future; we should be making sure that we are putting our right foot forward and presenting everything we can – we have a more than strong enough case to be rated outstanding.”

Finally, the Tigers’ new head of youth development shared his excitement about the position and getting to work with all areas of the Club’s youth provision:

“Building on the foundations that have been built previously is a big part of that, when I came into the role it was working and being that linked between the community foundation and the performance and development side of things.

"For me now, it’s the area that I’ve worked in, and I’ve done this role previously, I’m massively excited about pushing forwards and making sure our pathways across the board are as strong as they can be.”