Leigh Centurions Head Coach John Duffy has paid tribute to the Tommy Sale MBE Youth Development Programme (TSY) for their key role in his squad building for the forthcoming season.

Through the Club’s links with TSY five playing members of Duffy’s squad have gained valuable employment and training opportunities that fit in with Leigh Centurions’ transition from a full-time to a part-time playing squad.

Joe Cator gets down to work.

Iain Thornley, Nick Gregson and Jack Higginson are training to be electricians, Jonny Pownall is training as a plumber while Joe Cator is training to be a civil engineer. All have been fixed up with employers and the appropriate training programmes.

Duffy, who has worked closely with Aaron Adams from TSY, said: “The Club has transitioned quickly from a full-time playing squad to a virtually brand-new part-time playing squad. The transition brings many challenges which we have met head-on in the past few months.

“We have helped all the lads and staff as much as we can and several more have started new jobs as a result of contacts through the Club.

“Rugby League, like all professional sports, is a short career and everyone has to plan for their future. Aaron and his organisation have been so proactive and have played a big role in helping us put together a squad ready for the season.

“Being able to offer players the chance to learn a trade that will hopefully provide them with employment for the rest of the working lives certainly helps me and my coaching staff in recruitment. Hopefully this link-up with TSY is only just the start of a long-term partnership.

“It’s tough having a full-time job and then training at nights and playing at weekends. As a Club we train as much as full-time teams, but we just don’t get the recovery time and that makes a massive difference over a season.

“What I’ve found is that lads who come out of full-time playing contracts view their rugby differently and really value their time at training and preparing for games. They seem to enjoy their rugby more and they certainly see the game from a different perspective.

Joe Cator gets down to work.

“If you look at Joe Cator, for example, he’s 20-years-old and has been a full-time rugby player since leaving school. Now he’s working all day and training to be a civil engineer and he’s training at night. They’re long hours but he is relishing the challenge and really enjoying it.

“He’s already made a good impression at work and at the end of four years of training will be able to get a job anywhere in the world for when his rugby career’s over. When he gets to 25 he’ll be in a far better position in the wider world of employment that many of his contemporaries who’ve just been full-time rugby players.

“This link-up with TSY is just part of a wide number of initiatives in which we are working together in tandem and I’m sure there will be many more exciting developments in the future as the partnership develops.”

Aaron Adams said: “We at Tommy Sale Youth Development Programme are delighted to have been able to assist these players in securing positions that will provide them with a good standard of living well beyond their playing days. Player welfare is at the heart of everything we do, be that at grass roots or professional level.

“We now have a growing network of businesses working alongside us. Some of these are new to our sport and some already support our great game and I would like to sincerely thank them all. To provide five apprenticeships at our first attempt is phenomenal.

“With the support of these businesses and Leigh Centurions we can only go from strength to strength giving our young players what I believe is not only unique but the best route into professional Rugby League.

“The respective employers involved are Briggs and Forrester, SES, Wingates and Heyrod Construction and we are all grateful for their support.”