Tony Smith challenges Super League to develop youth as he praises Hull FC core

Tony Smith is calling on Super League clubs to keep developing and playing their young players. The influx of injuries in the last couple of years has meant many sides have fielded their youth, with Hull FC's new head coach giving that youth its chance this pre-season.

If they're good enough, then they'll be considered, and for Smith that has to be the message across the board if the domestic competition and international side want to get better.

Sometimes it's forced by hand, as seen at Hull FC last season with an unprecedented injury crisis handing debuts to Harvey Barron, Davy Litten, Matty Laidlaw et al. However, Smith has no problem with that - rather looking at the long term benefits.

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"It happened to a lot of clubs - they have a lot of debutants and young people playing because of injuries and it presents opportunities for them," Smith told Hull Live. "As long as they are physically capable there is no problem with that.

"A lot of clubs have had to do that over the last few years and they have introduced young players to the Super League and backed their own juniors. That's why developing your own juniors is so important not just because of injuries but also the importance of the game.

"If we're going to have a strong domestic sport and strong national sport then we need to develop young people. We have to produce more talent if we're going to beat some of the bigger nations."

Samoa toppled England in the Rugby League World Cup semi final last weekend with an abundance of young NRL talent developed mainly at western-Sydney clubs. The challenge for Super League now is to keep bringing their own talent through and give them a chance.

Hull FC are aiming to do just that. The club have placed a big emphasis on their Centre of Excellence for a handful of years now and are starting to see the benefits, with many of its young stars training under Tony Smith this pre-season.

"There's a few of them I'm really impressed with," Smith continued. "Davy Litten is very fit, very coachable and very capable both physically and skillfully. He's very good in that respect.

"A lot of them have caught my eye for different reasons. Big Will Gardiner, he's raw, but he's very coachable and takes things on very quickly. He's a big guy - he's a big, young man and being in a full-time environment, I think he'll make big inroads. He takes things on and listens.

"Harvey Barron is up there competing. He's very strong. Lewis Martin too, he's raw, he's new to rugby league so he's learning loads but he's very physically capable.

"All of them have been very coachable. Denive Balmforth and Nick Staveley as well. They're all working really and are eager to impress but I'm going to say the whole squad has been that way.

"They're all trying hard and seeing this as an opportunity to get better, to improve and to learn. Who knows where it might take them - we're giving them every chance to impress."


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