WARRINGTON Wolves’ home grown star Joe Philbin says there’s no reason why the club can’t produce youngsters of the same quality and regularity as rivals Leeds, St Helens and Wigan.
Many of the victorious Super League sides since its inception in 1996 have been built around strong cores of academy products.
Warrington have often had to dip in to the transfer market for their key players, and while that trend shows no signs of stopping any time soon, the progress of Philbin amongst others, plus increased investment in the coaching of the Wolves’ young talent, points to a different future.
He said: “It’s a rugby league town, they’re rugby league mad, so the players are there.
“We’ve looked at our youth structure over the last few years and made a few changes and we’re expecting big things from our academy products because at the end of the day that’s where you get your enthusiasm from.
“I’ve been there, that 17/18 year old who wants to do everything he can in training and that brings out the best in the senior players as well a competitive environment.
“When I was coming through I had the reserves which is back this year. It’s ridiculous it ever went away.
“The reserves were really helpful as there are some players that just aren’t ready to go from under 19s to Super League.
“Some players may be ready at 22, some 23, but then you can still get a few quality years out of them i think the reserves will make a big change but we probably did lose a few players through who just weren’t ready at under 19s.”
As well as giving more opportunities to academy products like Josh Thewlis, who made his first team debut last season, the Wolves have also brought in young talent from elsewhere – signing Keanan Brand from Widnes and last season’s top try scorer in the Championship, Matty Ashton from Swinton.
In Warrington’s first 25 squad numbers for 2020, there are five academy products – Philbin (15), Dec Patton (21), Mike Cooper (10), Ben Currie (11) and Toby King (4).
Forward Ellis Robson (27) impressed on loan at Widnes last season, while Riley Dean (30) also made his Super League debut in 2019.
To compare, Super League champions St Helens had nine homegrown talents in their starting 17 for their Grand Final win over Salford.