THE return of reserve grade rugby league will be ‘massive’ for player development according to the Warrington Wolves chief executive.

The reserve competition will return next season and Karl Fitzpatrick says while there may be an increase in running costs for clubs, it will save money in the long run.

All 11 of the English based Super League clubs will be involved as well as Widnes, Bradford, Halifax and Newcastle Thunder.

And unlike the last time reserves were held, when Warrington played just four games, a structured competition will see home and away games.

Fitzpatrick says it will be vital for the future of the game.

“From a player development point of view, this is a massive,” he said.

“It is a real step forward for the game and massive for players.

“At the moment, we are asking players to go from under 19s to first grade.

“The likes of Connor Wrench or Josh Thewlis need to be playing against men.

“As a club,we are making decisions on whether to sign or retain players who may play front row or second row when they are 18 or 19.

“They won’t hit their physical peak until they are 22, 23 or 24 because they won’t be big enough.

“And those players could be lost to the game. But now they can play reserve grade and learn their craft.

“The current partner club arrangement is not ideal either. Because those clubs don’t want players at full back, hooker or halves who are coming in and playing the odd game, which you can understand as well.”

Warrington will look to recruit around five players exclusively for the reserve team and use players from the first team squad who are not in the 17 that week.

Crucially, the under 19s competition will be an under 18s from 2020.

So many of the academy crop will now be able to play in the reserve side.

While fixtures are yet to be confirmed, the Wire will aim to play home games on Saturdays at Victoria Park.

It will mean players from the first team 19-man match-day squad who don’t make the final 17 on a Friday can still play on the Saturday.

And Fitzpatrick does not share the concerns of some other clubs around an increase in running costs.

“Some clubs are concerned about the financial impact. But we will get that back and more in the long run, by not losing players to the game,” he said.