Friday, September 22, 2006

Won't somebody think of the children...?

So, it's Castleford Tigers then that fall through the relegation trap door, their form at the business end of the season not being good enough to keep them ahead of a resurgent Wakefield.

Tigers coach Terry Matterson made some interesting comments in the aftermath of the loser-takes-nothing defeat on Saturday in respect of relegation and junior development. Apparently, he had been wanting to get more game time out of young players such as Craig Huby and Andy Kain this season, but because of the pressure to stay in Super League had been forced to stick with veterans and unable to take that gamble. Matterson reasoned that had there been no such pressure to avoid the drop, these young players would have gained valuable experience that benefits everyone in the long run.

Seems a pretty reasonable statement to make, and tugs at the heartstrings of those who have the best interests of the GB side at heart. If these youngsters are being frozen out because they can't be risked by clubs in the bottom half, then how will they ever develop into players capable of playing at the highest level?

That's until you ask yourself one question - if the pressure to stay in the competition disappears, what is likely to replace it? Will club chairmen set their coaches a goal of developing as many outstanding young players as they possibly can, and sod where we end up in the league? Of course they won't. The expectations will still be there to either win the title, get in the playoffs or simply avoid finishing bottom even if that doesn't send you through the trap door into the void that is National League One. Coaches will still find their job on the line based primarily on results, not the number of home grown players in the side. If those results dry up at any stage, who is likely to be first out of the seventeen on a weekend - the promising youngster who is prone to still making some (potentially expensive) rookie mistakes, or the steady but unspectacular veteran with a couple of years NRL experience and an EU passport?

So nice try Terry, but you'll forgive me if I don't buy into this one.

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