The Sheffield Eagles Academy production line may have been put on hold, but the legacy is still very much there for all to see.
Director of rugby Mark Aston described losing the club’s scholarship as one of the hardest days in what has been a turbulent few years, but the ethos of giving youth a chance still remains a cornerstone of his rugby league manifesto.
Whilst the punishing defeat to Leigh on Sunday again exposed several weaknesses in the current side, amongst the disappointment was potentially the start of another home grown story in Blake Broadbent.
The son of Eagles legend Paul, Broadbent bagged a debut try in the second-half and is currently one of a clutch of former academy graduates that have stayed or come back to the Eagles.
Aston remains confident that the youth setup will one day return to the Steel City, but for the time being having home grown youngsters like Greg Burns, Ryan Millar and Broadbent amongst his side shows there is still a commitment to giving youth an opportunity.
“There is a good percentage of our squad that is home grown,” Aston told The Telegraph.
“Does it show all the work we did those years ago worked? Yes. It was a sad day for me when the academy went because that is what I am all about. I don’t want to lose these kids. The way to develop them is to keep them in the system and get them playing in The Championship just like we did with Cory Aston. If they are then good enough they can go on from there.”
The Eagles recently re-signed another former prospect when Paddy Burns, brother of Greg, returned to the club after departing for Castleford when the academy structure dissolved.
After a spell in France, Burns is back in South Yorkshire on a deal until the end of the season with Aston confident that he would have been involved last season if the structure had remained in place. “That’s what we were really disappointed about when we lost our academy status, because we would have probably kept hold of Paddy,” he added.“He might have been further down the path of playing Championship rugby league. He may well have played half of the previous season if we would have kept hold of him. It certainly gives me a lot of satisfaction that the kids are coming through, and over the next few weeks we will be talking about the likes of Cory Aston, Greg Burns, Paddy Burns, Ryan Millar, Blake Broadbent - these lads have all come through our system.
“We’ll have a look at Paddy until the end of this year and then we will re-evaluate. We have to get through this season and then we’ll look at it, because he is certainly a kid that we will want to keep because that’s what we want to do.”
The Eagles have a break from league action this weekend following their heavy defeat to Leigh where Aston again questioned his side’s commitment during spells in the game.
They return for a crucial trip to Rochdale Hornets on April 29th.