Kris Radlinski says rugby league needs reserves to find future stars
Rugby league is missing out on stars of the future because of a lack of reserve teams, says former Great Britain international Kris Radlinski.
And the manager of rugby at Wigan wants governing body the RFL to get tough and stop clubs from penny-pinching in order to produce more talent.
"The frustration is that the RFL do believe that reserves is the way forward. They've done a lot of studies into what goes into making a Super League player and reserves is a part of that," said Radlinski.
"But a lot of clubs refuse to do it for financial reasons. So it has to come from the governing body to say every club has to have a reserve grade."
Only four Super League clubs currently run an 'A' team - St Helens, Hull, Warrington and Radlinski's Wigan.
Speaking to this week's BBC Rugby League podcast, the former international full-back said: "We play each other three times a year, so that's nine matches and it's nowhere near enough.
"It's great raising the salary cap, but still producing youth has to be the way forward."
The other eight Super League clubs run academy sides up to under-19s, but nothing else between that level and the first team.
Players can be loaned out or duel-registered with Championship or League 1 sides to help their development. But Radlinski insists that system is not good enough.
'It's a false economy not to.'
Radlinski believes that having 'A' team rugby would allow clubs to retain more youngsters, giving them longer to develop. And he says that level is the best scenario to mature into fully-fledged first team players.
"Under 19s to Super League is an enormous jump, ideally we'd love our own competition reserve grade." he said.
"When I was a kid coming through, we had internationals playing in the reserve teams, we had 3,000 to 4,000 people at Central Park watching. That's where you learn best."
And he's backed in his views by St Helens' forward Jon Wilkin, who told the podcast: "I train with young guys, and you've no idea whether, when it comes to playing against men, that they're going to be able to perform.
"We need a way of testing that within our own club systems.
"There needs to be real pressure from the game centrally for each club to have a reserve structure. We should invest in it, it's a false economy not to."
RFL chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer said: "Certainly the RFL does believe in the reserve grade system. It's been discussed around the table and it's clear that several clubs don't want it at this stage.
"We are only interested in quality player experience and that can only happen if clubs take it seriously."