Now 2018 is upon us it is a great time to look back at what GRLA has provided 2017’s cohort of GRLA players. The 2016/17 intake of 3 Scottish U19s RL players – Jordan Gray, Jack Stevenson & Archie Andrade – all who hailed from the Aberdeen Warriors RLFC, were playing regular rugby league with Halifax Elite Rugby Academy or Calderdale College RL in college competition and King Cross Park RLFC in Pennine League competition. These experiences had ensured that they were increasing their rugby league knowledge in battle-hardening environments.

From left to right – Jordan Gray, Archie Andrade & Jack Stevenson

Indeed, 2017 started in explosive fashion for GRLA’s Archie Andrade who began a 3 month trial with Leeds Rhinos U19s Academy. This was due to the hugely impressive performances the young Scottish RL player, who had also been trialling with the Scottish Students RL squad, had been producing for Halifax Elite Rugby Academy. Archie would go on to make a number of appearances for the Rhinos U19s, including a try scoring debut against the City of Hull U19s Academy and playing at the famous Headingley Stadium against Catalans Dragons U19s. Whilst with the Rhinos Academy, Archie completed his RFL Level 1 Coaching qualification to go alongside the RFL Match Official qualification he had completed in 2016. Such additional qualifications accompanied the BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Sport he would eventually complete at Halifax Elite Rugby Academy.

Not to be outdone by their GRLA teammate, Jordan Gray and Jack Stevenson both took part in a 2 week training opportunity with Huddersfield Giants U19s that included strength and conditioning and skills sessions. Both Jack and Jordan had take up the offer of early trial opportunities with Hunslet RLFC through the 2016 ‘Hunslet Rookie’ initiative and this would have no doubt helped them prepare for what was a tough 2 weeks training with the Giants. Jordan had been producing a number of impressive performances in a struggling Calderdale College RL team – a team he was also the captain of. He was also the only GRLA player who took up the opportunity to train with Keighley Cougars Reserve Grade having impressed in a trial opportunity prior to Christmas 2016. Jack had steadily been developing his game with the Halifax Elite Rugby Academy and had also won the ‘Players Player of the Year’ Award with the King Cross Park RLFC winter team for a string of hugely impressive 80 minute performances at prop forward. He impressed the Giants Academy staff, particularly with his natural strength when working in the gym; it was later revealed that Jack was desperately unlucky not to get an extended run with the Giants squad for the 2017 season, although this would eventually spur him on to greater things.

This would not be the last training opportunity that the GRLA 2016/17 players would take part in. As Easter approached Jack, Archie and Jordan were involved in a 2 week training opportunity with Wigan Warriors U19s. This was an extremely testing and physical environment for the players, which ultimately challenged their ability and attitude. It was encouraging to hear Darrell Goulding, Warriors U19s Head Coach, speak highly of the 3 GRLA lads and the aim of the GRLA programme in general, stating that he ‘feel(s) this is a great idea what (we) are doing and the more players we can get playing this great game of rugby league the better.’  All 3 of the GRLA players were able to compare and contrast with experiences that they had had with other clubs earlier in the year and it became notably apparent that the sheer physicality of the Wigan training was an eye-opener for them.

By summer 2017 Jordan had completed his RFL Match Official qualification and Jack had gone on to complete his RFL Level 1 Coaching qualification to accompany the Match Official qualification he undertook in 2016. The players were also presented with a final training opportunity with the London Broncos U19s Academy, an offer that was taken up by Jack Stevenson. Jack impressed once again in this training opportunity, culminating in him being offered an extended stay in the capital city and the chance to represent the Broncos U19s in their final 2 league fixtures. However, issues with RFL registration prevented this from eventuating much to our huge frustration. Nevertheless, it highlighted to Jack that he did posses the ability to take his rugby league to a higher level and further demonstrated the importance of GRLA in identifying players from emerging rugby league playing markets who have the chance to access higher rugby league opportunities.

Whilst Jack was training in the capital city, Archie Andrade had been successful in his trial opportunities with the Scottish Students and was travelling to Australia for the 2017 Universities Rugby League World Cup in Sydney! Archie had had a hugely successful season with GRLA and he completed this by helping to take the Scotland team to the semi-final of the World Cup, where they would eventually bow out at the hands of the Pacific Islands. This would be Archie’s’ final involvement with GRLA, although it was hugely encouraging to see him continue with his rugby league in Yorkshire and go into Year 2 with the Halifax Elite Rugby Academy. Jordan, too, would also finish his time with GRLA having completed his BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Business Studies at Calderdale College, returning back to Aberdeen.

Alongside all of this rugby league, the GRLA players of 2016/17 enjoyed activities such as the infamous scenic runs (various hill sprints around the beautiful Calderdale scenery) and speed & agility sessions with Tornoto Wolfpack trialist, Monte Gaddis of the USA. They also experienced social activities such as the climbing wall at ROKT and rugby golf at Ryburn Valley Golf Club.

From left to right – Jack Stevenson, Antonin Berk, Myles Harrop & Daniel Vesely

As we approached July 2017, it became clear that Jack Stevenson would remain with GRLA for the 2017/18 year searching for that elusive playing opportunity with a professional club. He would eventually be joined by Cumbrian RL player, Myles Harrop, who ventured to GRLA from Kendal – outside the Cumberland Rugby League Trinity of Workington, Whitehaven & Barrow, therefore a real development area for the game of rugby league. Added to the 2017/18 mix was continental European flavour via Czech Republic RL duo, Daniel Vesely and Antonin Berk, who both came to GRLA from the 2017 Czech Champions, RLC Dragons Krupka!

All 4 of the GRLA contingent were immediately immersed in rugby league from the outset having joined GRLA education partners, Halifax Elite Rugby Academy, and they spent a week in the south of France on a short tour. Whilst there, the GRLA lads were able to take part in fixtures against Lezignan U19s & Carcassone U19s. This provided a great opportunity for the GRLA players to interact with their new teammates and begin building solid social circles that would ensure they had the greatest od experiences with GRLA. All 4 players were also signed up to play with Queensbury RLFC to play both winter (Pennine League) and summer (Yorkshire Mens League) rugby league. Daniel and Antonin, in particular, have been extremely active in early season games for Queensbury, whilst both Jack & Myles have shown enough to suggest that they will most definitely be in contention for first team rugby come summer 2018.

Training opportunities have also already begun for our players, with Myles & Jack being invited to train with Halifax RLFC Reserve Grade and Daniel & Antonin attending open trials with Keighley Cougars RLFC Reserve Grade. Opportunities to train in such environments is huge for the players development and will allow them to further progress the emerging areas they come from. Jack has also shown great development in early fixtures for the Scotland U19s RL squad in fixtures against Northern Ireland, Cumbria and England Lions; indeed, he caught the eye of a number of coaches with his stirring performances.

The GRLA players have undertaken scenic run sessions at Shibden Park and Norland Moor, alongside strength & conditioning sessions with Elite S&C Gym (run by Wakefield Trinity player, Scott Grix) and assessments with Juan Jasso, GRLA S&C Coach. For the 2017/18 season, GRLA have introduced extra rugby league skills sessions alongside these scenic runs. These sessions focus on areas of development identified by the GRLA players club & college coaches and, so far, have seen extra work on physicality and handling. Yet it was not all training and playing, with all 4 GRLA players taking in social activities at Halifax Air Rifle Club, OnTrak Go Karting and Halifax Electric Bowl; they also got to take in some rugby league games, watching Halifax RLFC take on Catalans Dragons in the 2017 Middle 8s and also the small matter of the 2017 Super League Grand Final between Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford, Manchester – the latter also seeing the return of GRLA old boy, Matej Beslic (Germany RL)!

The final action of 2017 saw Daniel and Antonin complete the RFL Match Official qualification at Hunslet RLFC, alongside Lewis Hawkes (Halifax Elite Rugby Academy); Lewis is one of 2 young players who is joining an exciting GRLA initiative that will be run for the first time in summer 2018 so watch this space! 2018….the year GRLA took it to the next level!

If you are an aspiring young rugby league player in an emerging country or area in the UK then email GRLA on admin@globalrugbyleagueacademy.com or, alternatively, message us on Facebook or Instagram!