Rugby academy honour is UK first

PRIESTLEY College’s rugby programme has scored a national first after introducing a successful women’s squad to the academy.

The Rugby Football League has awarded it the UK’s first ever Dual Rugby League Development Academy accreditation thanks to the ongoing successful partnership with Warrington Wolves.

Speaking to the young players at Victoria Park, RFL player development manager Phil Jones said it was a historic moment for all those involved.

“This is a first and that can never be taken away from any of you, Priestley College or Warrington Wolves,” he said.

“I’d like to congratulate Priestley because we see this as a model for how these academies should work.”

Priestley set up its rugby academy three years ago and it was initially just for boys.

However, the growing number of girls taking up the sport led to enough demand for a women’s team.

With the men currently unbeaten in the league and two of the Priestley women playing for Wolves, both sides of the academy are enjoying success.

Speaking at the presentation at Victoria Park, principal Matthew Grant paid tribute to the staff at Priestley, Wolves and to the Rugby League for backing the academy.

“This was about having faith in young people that they can benefit from something like this academy,” he said.

“I am a great believer that you can learn from sport, so this is all about taking the new skills you have learnt and using them in whatever you do next.”

In its second year, the academy’s men’s captain Karlton Bates went on to train with Warrington Wolves and secure an Academy Contract. While this year our top try scorer Alex Speakman has also been training with the Wolves academy.

Community rugby league manager Lee Mitchell also has high expectations for the women.

“Their programme will become more intensive next year and that’s just a natural progression as the women’s game at Priestley continues to thrive,” he said.

Head of sport at Priestley Nigel Howells said many of the players would progress to a higher level of rugby, but that being a part of the academy prepared all of them for different futures.

“You are not just getting good rugby league, you are getting a good education and academic qualifications,” he said.

“That’s what we are about. It’s a marriage between the two and doing things well on the pitch and off the pitch.”