Hull FC youth encouragement shared as ‘conveyor belt’ starting to bear fruit

Denive Balmforth starred in Hull FC's win over Leeds.
-Credit: (Image: SW Pix)

Francis Cummins believes that the ‘cogs are turning’ at Hull FC with the club’s desired conveyor belt of talent stating to become a reality. The Black and Whites have put a huge emphasis on youth development in recent years and the results are now starting to bear fruit.

With a fresh crop of youngsters emerging, the likes of Logan Moy and Jack Charles have impressed this year alongside fellow teenage talent Lewis Martin, while those entering their early 20s, Denive Balmforth, Harvey Barron, Will Gardiner, etc, continue to impress, not to mention Nick Staveley who was looking the part prior to his ACL injury. And for Cummins, who joined the club last autumn, the academy produce coming through now is ‘even better’ as Hull, who are striving to get better and better with their junior development, aim to make the backbone of their first-team side club produced.

Showing their progress, they have finished third in consecutive academy seasons, but the results lie not in the under-18s table but in who they are bringing through to Super League, the type of players and people there are, with the academy boasting three players, Jack Charles, Will Hutchinson, and now Ryan Westerman, in the England Academy squad for next week’s test against France in Warrington.

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Speaking on Hull’s rising young talent, who have over 50 Super League appearances between them for the club this year, Cummins said: "Ideally, you want them in a more settled environment but they've all shown that they can handle it. It’s been tough for us at times this year, but the academy has produced and will continue to produce some cracking players.

"There's Jack Charles and Will Hutchinson who got picked for England academy (and now Ryan Westerman) but there's another handful of those players who are going to push the next lot. I think the conveyor belt is happening and the focus of the club is paying off.

“There's some really good lads and it's really great to see them come through. We have to be a bit patient with them, as they will make the odd error that any top-line player made when they were younger, but you can see that the cogs are turning and it's really pleasing for me that they're getting a taste. Hopefully, we can get them to a full career with this club."

Overseeing both the academy and reserve sides this year, Cummins is also doubling up as an assistant to Simon Grix at first team level and is right behind the holistic development started by Pete Riding. He continued: "Generally, they're a good group. It's like anything with young men; they forget a few times, don't they? They do a few silly things. We just want to create an environment where they're aware of those things outside of rugby—humility and things like that.

"It's attention to detail. There's a lot of focus on them in this city. Once you play for Hull FC and you start knocking around the first-team, then most people know who you are. That can be a distraction for a young athlete, as well as social media and all that kind of thing.

"Part of my job is to keep people's feet on the ground and sometimes that's being a grumpy old fella, but that's the role I have to play as I know that's going to get them to where they need to go. If I have to be very grumpy from day to day, I will be; I don't want to be, but I can see that improvement, and the next lot seem to be even better as well. They're not only good rugby players' they're good young men as well.

"We've got some good numbers, and looking at the scholars that have come through, we've got another couple of good years, provided that they keep improving, Again, I can see the conveyor belt. My bit is to start increasing more of a demand on the academy, which gets passed down, and looking at more detail and skill and where we need to go. We’re definitely creating the right environment."

Hull’s academy and scholarship sides have shown plenty of potential this year. They’re encouraged throughout to play an attractive brand of rugby league with ball movement and tough defence two key motives. For Cummins, it’s a vision he is fully behind, with the 47-year-old enjoying his time at the club so far.

"I've really enjoyed working with the young lads," Cummins said. "What's been set up and put in place from Pete Riding and the other staff has been excellent. This is why we're getting the number of players through.

"The club has invested in it, and it needs to continue doing that and investing in these young lads, and hopefully, it will save them a fortune in the long run, but hopefully, our players can earn a fortune as well."

And as for Riding, Cummins added: "He has done a great job. I tip my hat off to him. He's put the club on the right path."

Read more: Hull FC make Denive Balmforth contract move as future key figure has big say