FORMER Warrington Wolves hooker Alex Thompson believes rugby league's under 19 academy system is resulting in a lot of wasted talent.
The 24-year-old moved to the Championship club Oxford in 2012 having been handed his Wolves debut under Tony Smith, but he also heaped praise on former Wolves coaches Paul Cullen and James Lowes, as well as ex-Wolves under 19s Academy coach Gary Chambers.
Thompson feels the current set-up, which only provides opportunities for players aged 19 and under, should be replaced by just having one reserve team with no age cap.
He said: “The under 19s doesn’t work – there are a lot of late developers and so many people aren’t ready until they are around 23.
“If you are in the under 19s and not performing then you get dropped and some lads lose the will to play because of that, so the game is losing some good players because they don’t perform at that stage.
“I thank Tony Smith for giving me my debut but Paul Cullen, James Lowes and Gary Chambers had a big impact on my development and taught me the tricks of the trade.”
Thomson also confirmed that he would like to one day return to The Halliwell Jones Stadium but dreams of a chance to play for arch-rivals Wigan Warriors.
He added: “I am a Warrington lad and my family supports the club so I would like to come back but you would have to ask Tony – however I have to say my dream is to play for Wigan.”