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Super League legend says clubs need to stop signing ‘ageing Aussies’

Only four teams have ever lifted the Super League title and for the most part it that’s been down to the impressive pathways and academy systems that those teams have had hence their dominance over long periods using home-grown players.

At times you get a certain crop of players that come through all at once, the class of ’92 in football springs to mind, but in rugby league it was the Leeds Rhinos team that won in 2004 and kept on winning through till 2017.

Leeds had the likes of Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow, Danny McGuire and Jamie Jones-Buchanan present for the majority of those wins and that led into the development of players such as Zak Hardaker and now Ash Handley and Mikolaj Oledzki who have become mainstays in the team.

St Helens are exhibiting that now with Lewis Dodd and Jack Welsby already well established whilst the likes of Mark Percival is in a testimonial year highlighting the team’s impressive production line.

The decision to win for the future was one that came long ago and it’s one that former Super League stalwart and 2005 Super League winner, Andy Lynch, believes is paramount for clubs to mimic.

“Teams want the short term fix, the majority don’t look long term,” Lynch told Serious About Rugby League.

“You’ve got to invest in youth, that’s massive I think. Maybe not for now or this year or next year but if you invest in the youth correctly and put systems in place then three, five, six years time you’ve got a teams of fully developed and majority homegrown players.

“And the quality will be there, you won’t have to go and buy Australians at the back end of their career. You can afford to buy top quality Australians come over to help these homegrown players grow and progress.”

Lynch was keen to highlight that Saints were a prime example and their rival for the World Club Challenge, Penrith Panthers, have been doing the exact same hence their patch of dominance right now.

“Penrith’s youth system is unbelievable, Saints have got the same system bringing the young kids through and it’s paying the rewards now.”

Super League clubs are now investing in their academies and so hopefully we can reach an era where plenty of teams all have first team rosters stocked full of academy talent, but Lynch also addressed that the problem or at least the cure for the problem sits further down the ladder.

“Does it come down to grassroots rugby league, all Super League teams down to National League have they got to do a bit more in the community to get their players out there, promote the game and get the kids hooked on the game.

“Get to the schools and to the local amateur clubs handing free tickets out and get kids playing again and enjoying playing rugby league and then hopefully a fan base might come from that. Invite teams down just twice a year, all the little things add up like that.”

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