Investment in youth paying dividends for Warrington Wolves

Warrington Guardian: Gareth O'Brien celebrates a try with James Mendeika. Pictures by Mike Boden Gareth O'Brien celebrates a try with James Mendeika. Pictures by Mike Boden

TONY Smith believes his side’s 30-22 Boxing Day victory against ‘derby’ rivals Widnes Vikings is proof that Warrington Wolves’ investment in youth is paying dividends.

A Wolves team containing 17 British players, with an average age of just 22, defeated a strong Vikings team thanks to tries from Garreth Carvell, James Mendeika, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie and Micky Higham.

Of that team, only Carvell, Higham and Danny Bridge had not been produced by the club’s Academy set-up, and Smith is hopeful that a number of home-grown talents will take the next step and make their competitive first-team debuts in either the Challenge Cup or Super League this season.

“It was a good hit out for us and I was really impressed by a lot of facets of our play,” said Wolves’ head of coaching and rugby.

“We had 17 British players on the field and all but three are home grown, which we are really pleased about and demonstrates how much investment we have put into developing young players and talent coming through.

“Just about every player who played a part (against Widnes) will hopefully play a part throughout the year in the first team as they are all potential first-team players.”

Smith was generally pleased with Wolves’ defensive performance despite Widnes getting within two points of snatching a result in the second half courtesy of tries from Danny Craven, two, Jack Owens and Patrick Ah Van.

“I thought we had a couple of lapses, but aside from that we were very good,” he said.

“We were good defensively and were only broken once down the middle during the whole game.”

The victory was also an encouraging hit-out for those returning to action after operations – Gareth O’Brien, Rhys Williams and Garreth Carvell.

Smith was delighted to see all three hit the ground running after an intensive period of rehabilitation.

“Gareth O’Brien was good and both Rhys Williams and Garreth Carvell played well after their recent minor surgery,” said Smith.

“Carvs was big and strong out there and was captain for the first time in his career. He led us well.”

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