Wakefield Wildcats: Agar looks to player development and consolidation in game’s restructuring

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats head coach Richard Agar believes boosting rugby league’s second tier and offering consolidation are key to a successful restructuring of the sport.

The Rugby Football League (RFL) has opened a consultation process over the future structure of domestic rugby league, with a final decision to made later this year.

Three options have been put on the table, with the most controversial being two leagues of 12 teams which would split into three leagues of eight midway through the campaign.

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The second option involves Super League reverting to a 12-team competition, with a ten or 12-team Championship and the reintroduction of promotion and relegation, while the third option would see a two-level Super League with each division comprising ten teams.

Agar, as with other Super League coaches including Warrington’s Tony Smith, has plenty of doubts over the three leagues of eight option, but says restructuring, if done correctly, can be good for the game, especially for player development.

“The three divisions of eight, to me, leaves more questions than answers, undoubtedly,” he commented.

“I’m a big fan of consolidation. If it’s a Super League of 14 or 12, I’m cool with that. I do agree that promotion and relegation perhaps needs to be on the agenda again.

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“For me, we want to produce more players for the game and we want to produce a better standard and quality of competition. We’ll do that by producing more players, and especially with the Australian market drying up or being more challenging.

“Why not try and do something for the next tier down? Try and get some money into that and perhaps try and make that full time.

“The clubs can’t do it themselves because the revenue is not there and it would need some help and management from the RFL.”

He continued: “Now the under-20s has gone it would give a viable option for good young players to stay in the game at a full-time level and perhaps increase the quality of the talent pool.

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“Clubs that did get promoted would have the experience of being full-time and having a nucleus of strong young players that could come up and manage in Super League for a year or two.”

“If the game could finance some investment in the next tier down and try and get that to a better level and full-time, I think that’d produce more players for the game.”

While Agar sees some potential changes as being a positive for the game, he says it is hard to see many plus points from the RFL’s most radical option for change.

That would see the 12 teams in each tier play each other once before the 24 teams split into three divisions of eight depending on their position.

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“I’d need more details but I’ve got some reservations and scepticism about splitting the league halfway through a competition,” he said.

“I think there are a hell of a lot of questions that would need answering for me.

“I know that is only one of the proposals. I’ve not looked at it greatly. I’ve had conversations with people but I’ve not looked in depth at the detail.

“I cannot see the positives in restructuring a competition halfway through the season. It’s very hard for clubs to sell, it’s hard for fans and I think it’d be difficult on recruitment, for the sides going down but also on the teams that stay in there.”

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He added: “I don’t think it’ll do player development any good by dropping down and playing at a sub-standard level.”

Further consultation will be undertaken by the RFL and clubs before a final decision is made later this year.

It could mean that relegation is reintroduced to Super League as soon as next season, with the full changes coming into play for the 2015 season after the current three-year licensing period has come to an end.

Whatever the outcome, Agar hopes the sport’s governing body will stick with them and build on them rather than continuing to “chop and change”.

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“Come up with solutions, stick to it and give it a go,” he said.

“We’ve gone from having the U21s competition to U20s now to the U19s with no second tier for players to play competitively in.

“We’re changing the competition structure, we’re going from licensing and now talking about going to promotion.

“We should go with something, stick to it and try and grow it instead of chopping and changing all the time.”