6th September 2019, 10:55 | performance

2019 England Performance Conference

2019 England Performance Conference

More than 100 coaches gathered in Leeds

More than 100 of Rugby League’s hungriest coaching brains seized the opportunity to learn lessons from leading figures from other sports as the RFL’s England Performance Unit hosted its fourth Performance Conference at Weetwood Hall in Leeds this week.

Three keynote speakers with experiences ranging from the England Rugby Union team to Olympics Fencing, via the Premier League football giants Arsenal and Liverpool with a sprinkling of Aussie Rules from Adelaide and Sydney, shared their insights with coaches and other off-field staff from all areas of British Rugby League.

Ben Jones, the EPU’s Head of Performance, said: “A lot of sports learn from what we’re doing, and I think it’s our responsibility as the governing body to provide the opportunities for coaches at our clubs to learn from others as well.

“We work hard to attract a range of high-calibre speakers, and we were delighted this year to welcome Stuart Lancaster from Leinster Rugby Union, Darren Burgess with his extensive experience in football and AFL, and Dr Anthony Turner, the associate professor in strength and conditioning from Middlesex University who worked with the Team GB fencers between the London and Rio Olympics.

“It was great to have an attendance of more than 100 delegates from across Super League, Women’s Super League, Championship and League 1, coaching, heads of performance, strength and conditioning – it’s great to see so many people in Rugby League buying into their own development. It’s a really good opportunity for people from across our game to come together and share lessons from inside and outside the sport.”

Lancaster, who has steered Leinster to triumph in rugby union’s Champions Cup after his years as England Head Coach, relished the chance to catch up with familiar faces such as Kevin Sinfield and Paul Anderson, and was impressed by the Performance Conference concept.

“My relationship with Rugby League goes back a long time, to 2000 when I was Academy Manager at Leeds, working with Daryl Powell and Simon Middleton with the rugby union team and housed in the same building as the Rhinos when Tony Smith was in charge.

“From that point onwards I’ve always had a strong relationship and taken a large amount from the sport, so I’m delighted to be involved with the Performance Conference. The great coaches, and the great conditioners, and the great physios always want to learn to get better.”

Dr Anthony Turner cheerfully admitted that his knowledge of Rugby League fell some way short of Lancaster’s. “But once you get into one single sport, sometimes you can become quite blinkered,” he said. “When you step into other sports, you can look at different methods, and see how they might adapt – even when the sports seem totally dissimilar, like fencing, you can always take a lot from it. There’s a commonality in how you design programmes, and how you create a culture.”

Darren Burgess, who this year returned to his native Australia to become Performance Director of the Melbourne AFL club after key roles in Premier League football with Liverpool and most recently Arsenal, added: “I’ve been involved in sport for 20-odd years, and it’s good to share the key takeaways and lessons I’ve learned from the different organisations and teams I’ve been lucky to be part of.

“I’ve followed a lot of Ben Jones’s work online, and a lot of his research, so when he called and asked me to talk I had no hesitation. We’ve spent the day exchanging ideas, and hopefully we’ll have future collaborations.

“In some other sports they can be a bit insular and just worry about their own sports, so I think it’s fantastic that England Rugby League are doing this.”

The list of attendees included:

Paul Anderson (Warrington Wolves and England Knights), Peter Riding, Matt Ireton (Warrington Wolves), David Cooper, Joel Fulford, Lee Gilmour, James Stephenson (Wakefield Trinity), Matt Crowther (Castleford Tigers), Stacey Emmonds (Castleford Tigers Women), Chris Black, Alex Morrell, Mark Oxley (Leeds Rhinos), Lucy Chesson, Ben Nicholson, Kevin Till, Sarah Whitehead (Leeds Beckett), Martin Coyd, Thomas Coyd, Wayne Boardman (England Wheelchair), Matty Faulkner, Rob Nickolay, Adam Whitney, Danny Wilson (Hull FC), Anthony Atherton, Thomas O’Malley, Mick Cassidy, Paul Johnson, Darrell Goulding, John Winder (Wigan Warriors), Matt Daniels, Ian Talbot, Justin Holbrook, Paul Wellens, Nathan Mill (St Helens), Alex Bielby, Michael Heap, Jon Mason, Jordan Robinson (Newcastle Thunder), Ian Watson (Salford Red Devils), Ollie Richardson (Huddersfield Giants), Stuart Littler (Swinton Lions), Matt Fairbank, Kieron Purtill (Widnes Vikings), James Ford (York City Knights), Kevin Sinfield (Leeds Rhinos / EPU).