FEATHERSTONE Rovers are set to play under 23 matches in a “flexible” fixture format next season.
It follows the RFL’s decision to scrap the under 23s league for Championship clubs.
Clubs had been informed that instead there would be only one lower grade competition, for under 20s, but Rovers coach Daryl Powell (pictured) said: “There’s going to be some flexibility on the programme.
“As I understand it, next season when we play against Halifax, Leigh and Keighley, for example, we will be able to play at under 23s. There will be flexibility playing against some of the clubs that were set up to have an under 23 team.
“It’s not ideal but there’s going to be a platform for us to develop players which I think is crucial in what we have built up at the club.
“There will be a league of some kind but how it will operate I don’t know. It’s up to the RFL to detail that and hopefully that they will be able to do that in the pretty near future. In an intelligent fixture list you would play under 20s one week and under 23s the week after - I think that’s the only way it could work for us in a positive way and that’s what I’ve conveyed to the RFL. It should give us something to help develop players right across the age groups.
“It will take a bit of working through but hopefully we will understand soon how it’s going to work and we can start to move things forward.
“I think this year will be a year of stabilising and then we’ve got to look to put something in place that gives young players the opportunity to develop over a number of years. I think it’s important a programme is put together that has some consistency to it.
“I just think everything is too rushed at a late stage within Rugby League at the moment. Forward planning doesn’t appear to be part of the rationale and make up our game at the minute. Hopefully that will change in the near future.”
Powell believes there should be a minimum criteria for the Championship to encourage clubs to invest in youth development.
“Some of the clubs are just not focusing or putting an emphasis on youth development. For me, it’s unacceptable as a professional club,” he added.
“I think if clubs don’t want to invest in youth development they should play in Championship One. There should be minimum criteria for the Championship like there is in Super League.
“And I don’t think a two-tier pathway is the right way to go. I think you need three tiers and under 23s is the right way to go but Super League clubs decided financially that wasn’t what they wanted to do.
“We need some consistency especially with Super League deciding to go a different route.
“ Hopefully, Super League clubs don’t decide to do something slightly different or completely different when it doesn’t quite work out how they expected and that has a fair bit of potential in my view.”
Some Championship teams have formed partnerships with Super League clubs but that is not a route Featherstone will follow.
“It’s certainly not going to be any good for ambitious clubs because you want to have your own group of people,” said Powell.
“It’s not right for us at Featherstone and I know for teams like Halifax, Sheffield and Leigh it’s not right for them either.
“Some of the other clubs who don’t want to invest in developing young players it may be right for them but I think time will tell whether it’s the right thing to do.”