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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Our day must surely come!

WE take pride in the rise of our brightest young rugby talent, even if some will be far removed from their West Cumbrian heartland.

James Donaldson, from Cleator Moor, has already started to climb a ladder which hopefully will lead him to RL fame and fortune with Bradford Bulls – the new kid on the block perhaps following the departure of Sam Burgess to Australia?

No time at all since James was helping Whitehaven School to some fame winning the European Junior Championships in Serbia as part of a very talented side which included one Gregg McNally.

Wath Brow Hornets nursery took pride, too, but when The Bulls came running, heading off competition from Leeds and Wigan, Donaldson opted for Odsal and opportunity knocked for him quickly in Bradford’s first team squad last season.

So much so that the Rugby League Express has named him as one of the Rookies to make their mark in 2010. Little wonder James is now in the England Academy Squad.

Lee Mossop, a little bit older, has not been named among the elite Rookies but the Whitehaven lad certainly impressed many when Wigan finally gave him a first team run in 2009. He’ll be looking to stake a more regular berth in the new campaign.

So Bradford and Wigan have two West Cumbrian gems in their hands – Leeds and Huddersfield obviously feel the same way about Kyle Amor and Gregg McNally; that Whitehaven’s loss will be their gain.

How much Haven will miss the pair remains to be seen – Haven are banking on some new gems of their own coming through – but it was good to see McNally impressing with Huddersfield Giants under-20s against Batley Bulldogs over the holiday.

Gregg still has lots of youth on his side to develop into a top class Super League player but I imagine Kyle Amor will want to make an early mark in Super League with Leeds Rhinos.

Whether or not we will see either in the chocolate, blue and gold again remains to be seen – Amor could still be eligible under the Haven-Leeds dual registration scheme – but one thing’s for sure West Cumbrian junior rugby league will continue to thrive and produce extraordinary talent.

How that talent will be showcased in the longer term is also problematical which is why an interview in the League Express, also this week, with the RFL’s chief executive Nigel Wood makes for revealing reading.

And for anyone, like myself, aspiring to see Super League in our outpost sooner than later, it appears a mite disappointing. Because Mr Wood makes it fairly clear that top-notch playing facilities will still be an equally important requirement, if not more so, for competing in the top flight.

He says: “Clubs are fully aware that if their plans to build new stadiums or significantly improve their home venue are NOT sufficiently advanced by 2011 they may NOT satisfy the full criteria for the next period of Super League licensing.

“For the next licence period we are looking for clubs to have made some real progress, although we appreciate the economic climate now is not what it was back in July 2008 when the licences were awarded.

“It is not an unrealistic objective in the 21st century that supporters of RL are provided with appropriate facilities from which to enjoy their support.”

Couldn’t agree more but when Nigel Wood also points to a strategy of “geographic expansion” and defends the continued support of the Crusaders in the Welsh venture, the question is how far does geography stretch – as far as Cumbria?

Our day must surely come, it’s not enough to produce outstanding talent to live the dream elsewhere. Trouble is no one can look in the crystal ball and say when and by what means – and, just as importantly perhaps, what support will be forthcoming. Over to you Mr Wood!

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