Mike Ruddock

Ruddock launches new plan to attract talent to the Ospreys

The recent signing of Will Hickey was the first example of a new partnership between the Ospreys and a host of the regional rugby franchises Premium Partners and Sponsors.

More than a dozen commercial partners have played a key role in building a new and vital funding model designed to support the Ospreys Player Pathway Programme (PPP).

PPP Sponsors

 

The exciting new initiative will allow the Ospreys to invite new talent from outside of the region and Welsh-qualified players from the UK and overseas to attend a three-month trial and be assessed and benchmarked.

Mike Ruddock, the Ospreys Development Director, recently outlined his PPP Vision to the Ospreys Business Club. Neil Armstrong, the Managing Director of RNA Plant, was the first sponsor to get behind the new innovative approach, with many other businesses coming on board to offer support.

The inaugural PPP sponsors support has demonstrated their commitment to the Ospreys during a financially challenging time for all businesses due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Hickey, who signed a two-year deal with the Ospreys last month, was the first recipient of that support, which included travel and living expenses, to allow him to embark on an initial trial with the region.

 

 

Ruddock played a key role in identifying Hickey as a player of a real potential in Dublin and offered him the opportunity to enter the Ospreys Player Pathway Programme and train with the Academy before he was even considered as a first team prospect.

Hickey was then promoted to train with the Ospreys first team squad and impressed Toby Booth, the Ospreys Head Coach, before he was offered a full contract.

Will came through with flying colours, but it wasnt easy for him,” said Ruddock.

He had to start in the Academy Programme and prove he had the ability to kick on from there. He was then placed in the first team environment, being seen by the First Team coaches, and his attitude, skill level, athleticism and capability impressed everyone.

 

Mike Ruddock
"There’s a ‘War For Talent’ out there and we are fast building a reputation for identifying and blooding young talent."

 

Toby, who has seen a lot of players coming through during his time in coaching, was very impressed with Will. Not only with his attitude and ability but also his desire to buy in to the Ospreys culture, all marked him out as an outstanding talent.

But that was only possible because of the inaugural PPP sponsors, who have created a funding model to allow me to reach out and target and invite talent into our environment.

It allows the Ospreys to benchmark these young players and to see if they have what is required to progress with us and to a senior Ospreys contract.”

 

 

The bulk of the players who come through the Academy and the Player Pathway Programme are still homegrown and from the region and are the bedrock of the Ospreys.

The likes of Joe Hawkins, Josh Thomas and Will Griffiths are graduates of the Ospreys Academy and PPP and have all featured for the first team already during this campaign.

But the opportunity to be able to attract players of potential, especially Welsh-qualified players outside of Wales, is another part of the rugby strategy to bolster the depth and quality of the first team squad.

“Bringing players in on trial from external sources helps keep our Academy prospects on their toes,” said Ruddock.

 

Mike Ruddock
“I believe our Academy players will accept the challenge and become even more determined to achieve incremental performance improvements.“

 

“In doing so we can benchmark the new player in comparison to our existing talent pool and also keep our indigenous talent on notice that every step forward for them becomes even more competitive.

“I believe our Academy players will accept the challenge and become even more determined to achieve incremental performance improvements.“

While Hickeys potential as a future Osprey has been recognized, it is only part of what he has been offered. He will also further his education off the field and undertake an engineering course at Swansea University.

All young players are offered an opportunity to continue their education away from rugby as one of the six key pillars of the Ospreys Academy Player Pathway Programme.

The Ospreys have forged partnerships with Swansea University, Neath Port Talbot College, Gower College Swansea, Bridgend College and Llandovery College to prepare young players for life away from rugby.

 

 

With Will, we are also cementing on our links with Swansea University, where he has been accepted for an engineering course,” said Ruddock.

“That is something we can offer at the Ospreys to players who come into the Player Pathway Programme.

We know how important it is to link rugby with education around our rugby programme, and we have to thank Swansea University for accommodating Will and the inaugural sponsors of the PPP for making this happen.

“Swansea University is one of the best universities in the UK and the rugby team play in the top tier, BUCs Super Rugby Competition.

 

Mike Ruddock
“The wider and stronger we can make our talent pyramid the more successful we will be in the future.”

 

“It makes sense for us to link our student pathway players to the excellent University rugby programme, particularly when they will be coached by ex Ospreys, Hugh Gustafson and James Hook.

The goal is to widen our talent pool and increase the depth and quality of our talent pyramid

“With that in mind we have structured the PPP model into two distinct elements, the indigenous pathway that identifies and nurtures the intrinsic regional talent, and the extrinsic pathway that allows for ‘stand out’ talent, including Welsh-qualified talent outside the region, to enter the PPP.

“The PPP is fully aligned to our club vision of becoming the best region in Wales whilst supporting the Ospreys new global strategy. The most successful clubs know the importance of planning for the future.

“There’s a ‘War For Talent’ out there and we are fast building a reputation for identifying and blooding young talent.

“Every team has a life cycle of growth, maturity, decline.  The best clubs and management teams are the ones that anticipate the potential for decline and have talented replacement options ready to go.

“In football, Sir Alex Ferguson was the best at reshaping his team before decline set in. His capacity for success was built on his ability to identify talent and introduce it into the first team thereby creating internal competition for places as well as external completion for results.

“The wider and stronger we can make our talent pyramid the more successful we will be in the future.”