Wales Rugby League



WRL Academy launched at Maesteg School

25th September 2013, 09:41

WRL Academy launched at Maesteg School

Wales Rugby League, Wigan Warriors, Coleg y Cymoedd and Maesteg School officially launched a new Rugby League Academy at Maesteg School on Tuesday evening.

Photo: Ms Anne Carhart (Headteacher, Maesteg School), Rhodri Lloyd (Wigan Warriors and Wales player), Dave Clark (WRL Performance Manager and South Wales Scorpions Head Coach), Regan Grance and Brandon Goldsworthy (Maesteg School and South Wales RL Academy), Chris Thair (WRL Chief Operating Officer), Andy Coley (Wales Partnership and Liaison Manager), Stuart Hogg (Director of Learning, Maesteg School).


Wales Rugby League, Wigan Warriors, Coleg y Cymoedd and Maesteg School officially launched a new Rugby League Academy at Maesteg School on Tuesday evening.


This move will significantly boost the Rugby League player pathway structures in South Wales ahead of the forthcoming Rugby League World Cup, with Wales playing Italy on the opening day of the tournament at the Millennium Stadium on October 26th.


The new academy further strengthens the sports growing popularity in South Wales and will provide Wales Rugby League a new permanent base in facilities that will include office space, a state of the art gymnasium, all-weather training pitches and grass pitches.


WRL Chief Operating Officer Chief Officer said: “This is a significant day for ourselves as we are not only improving what we are delivering to our young performance players but we are also seeing the beginning of the sport developing a permanent base in South Wales. This represents a fantastic opportunity for the players and ourselves in building a lasting legacy from the World Cup.


“The number of partners that have assisted in making this happen has been immense and on behalf of WRL I thank them all in helping to set this up. Namely Skillsactive, European Social Fund, Welsh Assembly, Coleg y Cymoedd, Maesteg Comprehensive School, Innoved and Wigan Warriors RLFC.


“The families of the players involved also require a special mention as they have been hugely supportive to this new Academy. Some of our performance players have had to make huge sacrifices to be closer to Maesteg and this shows their level of commitment.


“The players will be receiving daily training at Maesteg Sixth Form as part of a new AASE pilot, with the funding obtained for this representing the biggest ever investment to Wales Rugby League from a welsh body. The improvement to our pathway structures further supports our vision of being a top four nation by the end of the 2017 World Cup and it is another sign the sport is taking significant strides in Wales.”


This Academy has come to fruition through the commitment of all four partners to provide a sector-leading environment for talented Welsh Rugby League Players to develop both on and off the field, gaining educational qualifications, as well as being the only school in the United Kingdom to deliver the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) programme for Rugby League.


Maesteg School was chosen for its location at the heart of the South Wales Valleys, being the border between East and West Wales, as well as its excellent educational standards, recognised by ESTYN 2012, particularly in the field of physical education.


Furthermore, the support of staff for students and the local community links fostered by the school made this the perfect institution to base the Academy. All of the partners in the delivery of the Academy are extremely grateful that the project has been supported by the European Social Fund through the Welsh government.


A wider community programme will also ensue in the area with Academy players supporting delivery to training to pupils in both the lower school and in the local primary schools, further increasing participation levels in the sport.


Amongst other initiatives in this partnership, the school will be delivering training to the Academy players in public speaking, interview techniques and key skills delivery. They will also be hosting both Maesteg School Rugby League games in the Champion Schools tournament and chosen South Wales Academy games following this year’s well supported Scorpions academy game against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats which signalled the beginning of the partnership.


Wales Rugby League’s player performance pathway has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and the provision of the Academy, its staff and resources at the school will considerably improve the standards of the players at under 18s level and into the future for club and international Rugby League in Wales. This Academy is also a major boost for Rugby League in South Wales in the same year as the World Cup comes to the country.


Speaking about the Academy, Stuart Hogg, Director of Learning at Maesteg School said: “This partnership represents a unique educational opportunity with the world’s most successful Rugby League club and our National Governing Body for Rugby League.


“The town of Maesteg has a rich heritage of producing Rugby League players including ex-pupil Allan Bateman, who was here at the launch yesterday to formally open the Academy.


“The Academy will play a considerable role in extending our educational provision and reducing the number of students not in education or training. Furthermore, the Academy concept promotes high standards and aspirations for the students and we are delighted to be involved in it.”


Andy Coley, Wales Partnership and Liaison Manager, said: “We are delighted to see the Wigan and Wales link is strengthened further with the opening of the Academy. It will give the young players of South Wales a greater possibility of achieving  success by following this pathway. Our staff – Wales internationals Dave Clark and Jordan James - are an integral part of the AASE Programme and will offer their experience in Coaching and Strength and Conditioning to those on the course.”




Chris Thair, Andy Coley, Allen Bateman, Stuart Hogg and Rhodri Lloyd


Chris Thair, Rhodri Lloyd and Stuart Hogg




The “Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence” programme, more commonly known as AASE, has been utilised by National Governing Bodies and Professional Sports clubs in England for a number of years. AASE has proven to significantly improve player pathway structures by providing more quality contact hours with the player, a qualification and an integrated approach to the players wider education. Part of the AASE qualification involves daily coaching, reviews and conditioning work which improves their rate of development when compared to the previous model of school during the day and training in the evening. Players also have time to undertake more qualifications, as well as AASE and enjoy a normal college experience with their peers.


Until now sports in Wales have been unable to run an AASE programme due to no suitably developed, SASW compliant, qualification being on the Apprenticeship Framework. It was therefore making it harder to compete against other nations and in light of this many sports, including Wales Rugby League, supported a grant application by Skillsactive to the European Social Fund through Welsh Assembly to obtain the funds to run a 12 month pilot programme to ensure the AASE framework could be suitably developed and become available for use in a similar fashion to how it operates in England. A tendering process then ensued with sports having to link to educational establishments and make an application to Skillsactive.


Whilst the application for 20 learners to undertake a 12 month ASSE programme in rugby league was steered by Wales Rugby League, it was the wider expertise and willingness of partners that ensured it as successful. Maesteg Comprehensive School had excellent facilities, location, staff and reputation to ensure this became the delivery site. Innoved had excellent computer software, Wigan Warriors had the expertise and experience in delivering AASE and Colleg y Cymoedd were a recognised provider of apprenticeships who therefore had to submit the final application.