29 Nov 2023
England Community Lions Announce New U17's Coach as Two Development Coaches Join The Programme
Stuart Simmons has been named head coach of the Under 17's Lions programme for 2024 and will also continue in his assistant role with Gary Hewer as the Under 19s prepare for the European Championships.
"I know we had a little taste of it last year with myself and Gary, where the 17s were embedded into the 18s and then we had that little two matches against the French touring team, which went well." Stuart said, "They've looked at what there is, and a pathway for the Under 16s coming through and hopefully we can keep progressing them on. So when Alan Davidson asked if I would be interested in leading the under-17s for next year for a tour over in France, it was a no-brainer for me to get back in. It is a privilege and honour to be part of the programme and all the experiences it brings along with it."
He continued, "The pathway's great, you see the lads, the progression that they come on from, the community clubs getting acknowledged for what they are, what the players do with the community clubs and then we put into place the programme that we have. We get them all in, fresh faces and then new coaches, new ideas and just push them to see what we can get out of them and challenge them to be better people.
"The programme is intense, and the players buy into that, which always helps. There's a lot of trials and there's the games and the training and everything to look forward to. But it's always a privilege at the end of it to represent your country and to coach your country and the players, what you see them doing. For me that is absolutely amazing so yeah, it's great. The coaching journey you go on as well, it opens more doors. It's good for everybody really."
Having started as a player-coach in the Open Age at Haresfinch, Simmons has also brought an age group right through from Under 8's to Under 18's at Orrell St James alongside a lengthy spell with Haydock and also worked with Pilkington Recs before more recently as Carl Forster's assistant at North Wales Crusaders.
Two new development coaches will also join the programme. Paul Farrell and Brett Turner from Wath Brow and Shaw Cross Sharks respectively both come on board to add their different experiences to the Lions mix. Everyone is looking forward to their input.
Several dates and locations for trials have already been pencilled in.
South - Saturday 20th January - Brentwood Eels - 11.00 am - 1.00 pm
Cumbria - Saturday 27th January - St Benedict’s School Whitehaven – U16 - 10.00 am – 12.00 pm, U17 – 12.00 pm – 2.00 pm.
Yorkshire – Sunday 4th February – Siddal – U16 – 9.00 am – 11.30 am, U17 – 11.30 am – 2.00 pm.
North West – Saturday 17th February – Pilkington Recs – U16 – 12.00 pm – 2.00 pm, U17 2.00 pm – 4.00 pm.
Trial games will then follow on a Saturday in March when there will be 60 players picked for both age groups.
Photo Credit: Ben Challis