Written by John Davidson
Photo by Hull KR Media
New Hull KR coach Willie Peters believes improving junior development and fixing pathways into the professional game should be a focus for English rugby league.
Peters has taken over at the Robins for the 2023 season. The former South Sydney, Wigan and St George Illawarra halfback has spent several years coaching junior teams at Souths and the Wests Tigers, and as an NRL assistant coach with Manly, the Bunnies and Newcastle.
Now at Hull KR, the 43-year-old sees the small amount of games elite English kids play each year, compared to their Antipodean counterparts, as an important contrast between the two hemispheres.
“The difference is the amount of games, more so in the junior pathways, is the amount of games played,” he told Everything Rugby League.
“It [the NRL and Super League] is a different game at the moment but I don’t think it has to be in a lot of areas around professionalism and standards.
“From what I’ve seen here there’s still special talent. You only have to look the best players that have played over here – your Adrian Morleys and your Sam Burgess’ – guys like that are special, special players. You get that on both sides of the world.
“Probably the main part for me is just getting that junior development right in terms of games.
“We had a situation this year with young guys joining our squad and unfortunately they weren’t where they needed to be because they hadn’t played anyway near the amount of games or had the training just to perform and train at the intensity of what we have.
Willie Peters is looking forward to the Robins' first action of 23' against @FevRoversRLFC tomorrow! 🔜
— Hull KR (@hullkrofficial) January 19, 2023
“So just making sure our pathways are right in terms of the amount of days we train, what a professional looks like to then when they get into a first-team environment and then they’re ready to go.
“That’s not any one particular club’s fault, I think Covid hurt it. It seemed like Covid hurt the game a bit more over here.
“We’ve got reserve grade [in Super League] that only plays every second week where I’m used to reserve grade playing every week back in the NRL.
“There could be little things but they end up being big things because you’re not developing the player as quickly as you like – that’s the main sort of area of improvement.
“We’ve just got to get that balance right. Injuries are part of the game but you still need to be playing games to develop.
“But there’s a lot of similarities with the NRL, and why shouldn’t there be? It doesn’t have to be different compared to the NRL when it comes to professionalism and standards and that type of thing.”