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21 May 2020

Swinton Lions RLFC and the Lions Foundation announce their partnership with the Rugby College to launch the Swinton Lions Academy.


Swinton Lions RLFC and the Lions Foundation, in partnership with The Rugby College, are thrilled to announce the launch of the Swinton Lions Academy.

The Academy will offer students an opportunity to study for formal educational qualifications alongside an enhanced playing and training opportunity from September 2020 onwards.

Damian Ridpath, the Lions’ Director of Development, explained, “This is a fantastic opportunity for school leavers both boys and girls who would like to combine an educational package with playing rugby. The club has found the perfect partner in The Rugby College to provide a robust package for young people. All students will be supported significantly within the partnership and the Club and Foundation will provide a range of support alongside the education and playing offer to make this offer unique.

“We are determined to ensure every student that enrols on the course will have the opportunity to maximise their potential in both educational and playing opportunities. To this end we have built into the program a number of defined exit routes. These include university and higher education entry, a coaching and volunteering program, and a link to apprenticeships.

“From a playing perspective there’s the opportunity of a player pathway to Swinton Lions together with links into community clubs where players can be further assessed by club coaching staff post-qualifications.

“The club has a proven track record of enabling and encouraging players to develop their individual game to the highest level, with players such as Matty Ashton, Andy Ackers, Liam Marshall, Chris Hankinson and Chris Atkin, all benefitting from their time with the Lions and now plying their trade in Super League.


Matty Ashton went from the amateur side Rochdale Mayfield to Super League giants Warrington Wolves after one season with Swinton Lions

“In addition we have several international players currently at the club, including Will Hope, Oscar Thomas, Mike Butt, Rhodri Lloyd, Frankie Halton, Richard Lepori and Gavin Bennion to help demonstrate that Swinton Lions is progressive club which has developed a culture of excellence whilst nurturing potential.”

Swinton Lions Head Coach Stuart Littler added, “This is another piece of outstanding news. The dual academy approach is a great concept, as it will allow players to continue a rugby pathway but with recognised certification which also allows learners to progress within the educational system. I am a firm believer in that all Rugby League players should always access some education or training in whatever subject area motivates them as an individual.

“This pathway also allows players to continue with a focus on striving to become the best player that they can be, plus they will start to access individual specifics with regards to tailored training plans and nutritional advice etc. As a club it allows us another pathway in our links within the community and to grow organically as an organisation.

“I am a big advocate of college Rugby League having coached in the environment not too long ago. Jack Hansen, Ryan Gray and Joe Digby played in the college team that I helped to coach and each have gone on to play first team rugby with us.”

The Lions’ club captain, Rhodri Lloyd continued, “The journey of education is a very important stepping stone within an individual’s life. Education provides you with basic skills and foundations for later life, and by gaining knowledge through education it enables the individual to get the job they dream of in the future.”

Swinton winger Mike Butt spoke of his personal experience, “I came through the College system myself and it benefitted me massively in my development and presented me with plenty of opportunities. Neil puts time and effort into each individual and is always there if you need any help or advice. The system has been put together very well and if you work hard enough, opportunities will arise.”

Steve Wild, the Lions’ Operation Director, summarised, “On behalf of the Swinton Board I’m really thrilled that we have been able to put this exciting project together. It’s another vital step in the overall evolution of the club. On the field, and despite the understandable current enforced pause, we are starting to see our exciting young team mature, but off it the Board appreciates that we have much to do to in order to develop the club to its maximum potential.

“The launch of our Academy is I believe demonstrative of the outstanding efforts and ambition of everyone within the club. Indeed we are working on a number of other exciting off-field strategies that will be revealed over the coming weeks and months.”

Any prospective students looking for more information regarding our‌ Academy should contact either Damian Ridpath or Neil Hayden for further information. 

Neil Hayden, Owner, Rugby College – 07837619621 / [email protected]
Damian Ridpath, Director of Development, Swinton Lions – [email protected]


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