Andrew Henderson believes IMG ‘kick up the backside’ could stop NRL talent drain
RUGBY league clubs should take the IMG-shaped kick up the backside they needed and get their houses in order, says Andrew Henderson.
That may make the English game less of a breeding ground for future NRL stars and keep its own.
And the York Knights boss has already seen the effects of the ‘re-imagining’ of the sport off the field.
Today sees the race to Super League get underway with the start of the Championship season – as exact details of IMG’s grading criteria, which help decide top flight places from 2025, are not yet known.
But former Scotland international Henderson, a familiar voice on BBC coverage who experienced life at the top as a player and a coach at Warrington, says the partnership is already making the desired impact.
Now clubs at all levels must take that forward to breathe new life into the structure here and stop young talent heading Down Under.
“It’s exciting, we need to raise the bar,” he said. “We shouldn’t be working to the lowest denominator. We should strive for higher.
“Effectively, that’s what this is. All they’re saying is, ‘Listen, you’ve all got an opportunity to be there. Just raise the bar.’
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“The one key word I’ve picked up on is growth. You’ve seen the growth in the NRL. There was a time where Super League competed with it for quality of players and the product.
“Now it’s going in another direction. It’s sad to see we’re losing some of our best young talent now. It’s not good.
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“We have to find ways of creating a product that’s going to generate growth and ultimately bring more money in, which will help us keep our best players. The best players create the best product.
“People need to understand how we’re going to entice more people to games, there’s got to be more engagement and a big focus on providing better facilities that people will want to go to.
“IMG say, ‘If you all hit these levels, Super League can expand.’ It’s not going to be a closed shop forever. There’s an opportunity for everybody if they want to be in Super League.”
Henderson leads York – one of several second tier sides with top tier-worthy stadia – into his first match in charge against fallen giants Widnes tomorrow as they look to build on the field after owner Clint Goodchild oversaw a transformation off it.
And he believes that puts the Knights on a better position to challenge, adding: “Part of the reason I took this job was I could see there’s some really strong infrastructure already in place.
“When Clint first came in, there were three club members of staff. Now there are a couple of people in the commercial and media departments, a general manager, a finance manager and an events manager.
“The off-field operation is now the minimum standard of a Super League one. Having those people in place will generate income you can then invest into your performance department.
“The playing facility is Super League standard, the training ground is fantastic and Super League standard. We also have our women’s team and we’ve now got wheelchair and PDRL sides.
“Our foundation is engaging new players and new people with the sport in the York area. York is in touching distance of the heartlands – it’s not miles away in the middle of nowhere.
“We’re in a strong position.”
Source: The Sun
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