In February 2024, Halifax Panthers launched a brand new initiative aimed at giving youngsters the opportunity to represent their hometown club. The Panthers Talent Pathway was established to create a direct route for local players to develop and represent the first team in the future.

The scheme began with the club running both under 15s and under 16s boys programmes for community player that haven’t signed scholarship papers with professional clubs, identifying potential and developing talent within our area. Four sessions were run on consecutive Saturdays at Calderdale College, culminating in games against Leeds Rhinos and Oldham at Leeds’ Kirkstall training ground in April.

Over 80 players signed up for the scheme. And for Head of Panthers Talent Pathway and current first team assistant coach Anthony Irvine, the first ever programme was a resounding success.

“The Panthers Talent Pathway is all about getting local lads playing the game they love for the club they love whatever their level. Getting the best out of their potential is extremely important to us, we had a game at the end of the block as we know lads love competitive games and it gives them a reward at the end of all the training. We showed up well in all the games against some good opposition, some of the stuff we played was of a high level and gives us a good base to start developing them further in the future. We couldn’t have asked any more of them on the day, the coaches were really happy with how the day went on the whole, and the main thing for us, they were proud to be there with plenty of smiles on faces which tells us all how well it’s gone.”

“It was all about the experience and putting little things into practice that we had done on the training ground. We only had 4 sessions, so everything was about giving them opportunities to develop their skills in a professional environment and playing in a way that expresses their skills in a competitive situation. We did really well in all of the games, and all the side, showed a high level of skill. It was just great to see so many young lads playing in Halifax Colours again, and showing off their talents. The talent in Halifax is very exciting.”

Damian Clayton MBE, CEO of Halifax Panthers said: “I am immensely proud of the success achieved through our inaugural Panthers Talent Pathway initiative. It has been a privilege to watch over 80 young athletes embrace this opportunity with such enthusiasm and dedication. I extend my deepest gratitude to Anthony Irvine, Head of Panthers Talent Pathway, and Wayne Stead, our dedicated administrator, for their outstanding leadership and commitment. Their efforts have been instrumental in shaping this pathway into a resounding success.”

“Special thanks must also go to our coaching staff, whose expertise and passion have greatly contributed to the development of these promising young players. The positive response and spirited attitude displayed by all participants during the sessions and games highlight the bright future of rugby league in our community. We are encouraged by the community’s support and look forward to continuing our work with local clubs to nurture and showcase the rich talent pool in Halifax. Together, we are not only building skilled players but also fostering a strong, united rugby league community.”

Panthers Talent Pathway Administrator Wayne Stead continued: “It went really well and exceeded our expectations. A big thanks must go to Leeds Rhinos for hosting the day. The players were focused and delivered on the elements of the game we asked of them. The main aim was for the players to enjoy themselves so it was a pleasing outcome that the players did that throughout the day.”

“The Halifax and Calderdale area is a hot bed for developing rugby league players irrespective of the level. Our aim is to support our community clubs in delivering that whilst providing a professional environment through our Pathway system. The first block has been a huge success and exceeded our expectations on many levels. It has given us a strong foundation to improve and build on. Watch this space for an update on our future plans.”

When questioned about the importance of programmes like the PTP for the future of Rugby League, Anthony Irvine stressed its significance.

“I think it’s vital, not just for Halifax Panthers but also for the community clubs. We need to bridge the gap between the community and the Panthers, supporting each other is something that needs to improve across the town. We are proud of our rugby league clubs in Halifax, a strong community game is vital for rugby league in Halifax, and Damian is making steps to bridge the gap between ourselves and the community clubs and this will only help.”

“We have had great support from all the community coaches so far over the two ages groups, with all the coaches involved in some way across some of the community clubs in the area. It’s not just a pathway for players but also to help give coaches education and an opportunity to get better in what they do, which again strengthens our the community game.”

“The coaches Luke, Paul, Andy, Billy, Jode and Rikki along with Louis Jouffret, James Woodburn-Hall, Zack McComb, Joe Keyes, Tom Inman and Adam Tangata from the first team all delivered high level coaching, but also give their own time to deliver this which showed they love what they are delivering for the players. As a coaching team, we connected really well and everyone brought a great energy, we had clear instructions on delivering a best in class standard and I think that happened.”

“We’ve had very positive feedback from parents and players, we still have lots to work on during the next blocks but we have built a good foundation now to develop it further. A big thanks goes to all the coaches involved that have all put their hand up for the next set of sessions. Also many of the first teamers have done the same, Louis Jouffrett is already planning for some education sessions in the next block which is brilliant of him, and great for the players involved in the pathway. Wayne played a very important role in organising everything on the days, dealing with organising 80 players over a few hours each Saturday, and it was great to see different community club players playing together as one team and the team spirit this developed, they all got on really well, and represented their community clubs very highly.”

“All of the successful teams over the years are built from home grown players, there are players littered all across the game from Halifax, we have lots of lads playing in the first team from Halifax and hopefully, although a small step it’s the start of identifying talent in Halifax and giving lads a genuine pathway.”

“We have a great relationship with Calderdale College and Andy Holleyhead who runs the Panthers College Academy, he has played a massive role in what we have delivered in this block, he’s a qualified conditioner also, and we have introduced specific details on warmups to prepare them for training. He is also there to support for their strength and conditioning. They run a really good academy and at the moment that is a genuine pathway for lads in our PTP, for lads that don’t end up at Calderdale college or in a scholarship system, we are still giving them an environment to develop and improve their game.”

Stay tuned for announcements on future Panthers Talent Pathway sessions as we look to build on the successful first edition in the near future.

#BWO #PanthersTalentPathway

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