Andrew Henderson believes IMG could stem NRL talent drain

RUGBY league clubs should take the IMG-shaped kick up the ass they needed and get their houses in order, says Andrew Henderson.

That could make the English game less of a breeding ground for future NRL stars and to hold their own.

Andrew Henderson thinks the IMG era is what English rugby league needs after sending players like Dom Young to the NRL

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Andrew Henderson thinks the IMG era is what English rugby league needs after sending players like Dom Young to the NRLPhoto credit: Reuters

And the York Knights boss has already seen the impact of the sport’s “reinterpretation” off the field.

Today the race for the Super League begins with the start of the championship season – as exact details are not yet known on IMG’s classification criteria, which will help decide the top league spots from 2025 onwards.

But former Scotland international Henderson, a well-known voice in BBC reporting who has experienced life at the top as a player and manager at Warrington, says the partnership is already having the desired effect.

Now clubs at all levels need to push this to breathe new life into the structure here and discourage young talent from moving Down Under.

“It’s exciting, we need to raise the bar,” he said. “We should not work with the lowest denominator. We should aim higher.

“Actually, that’s exactly what it is. All they’re saying is, ‘Listen, you all have the opportunity to be there. Just raise the bar.’

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“The only key word I picked is growth. You’ve seen the growth in the NRL. There was a time when the Super League competed with it for the quality of the players and the product.

“Now it’s going in a different direction. It is sad to see that we are now losing some of our best young talents. It is not good.

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“We need to find ways to build a product that will generate growth and ultimately bring in more money, which will help us retain our best players. The best players create the best product.

“People need to understand how we can get more people to play, there needs to be more engagement and a big focus on providing better facilities that people want to go to.

Henderson believes IMG's'reimagining' of the game can help retain top talent in England

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Henderson believes IMG’s ‘reimagining’ of the game can help retain top talent in EnglandPhoto credit: SWPIX.COM

“IMG says, ‘If you get all those levels, the Super League can expand.’ It won’t be a closed shop forever. There is a chance for everyone if they want to be in the Super League.”

Henderson is leading York – one of several Tier Two sides with top-flight stadiums – into their first game in charge against fallen giants Widnes tomorrow as they look to build up on the field after owner Clint Goodchild oversaw a transformation.

And he believes this puts the Knights in a better position to challenge, adding: “One of the reasons I took this job was because I could see there was a really strong infrastructure already in place.

“When Clint came in there were three club employees. Now there are a few people in the commercial and media departments, a general manager, a finance manager and an events manager.

Rugby league championship starts today

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Rugby league championship starts todayPhoto credit: SWPIX.COM

“Off-field operation is now the minimum standard of a Super League. Having these people in place will generate revenue that you can then invest in your benefits department.

“The pitch is Super League standard, the training ground is fantastic and Super League standard. We also have our women’s team and we now have wheelchair and PDRL sides.

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“Our foundation brings new players and new people to the sport in the York area. York is very close to the Heartlands – it’s not miles away in the middle of nowhere.

“We are in a strong position.”

https://www.the-sun.com/sport/7306169/rugby-league-england-nrl-img-york/ Andrew Henderson believes IMG could stem NRL talent drain

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