FORGET about BA Baracus and Hannibal Smith, The A Team for me in the late 70s and 80s was a Thursday night ritual on the cold terraces of Knowsley Road watching the Saints second string.

There you could see the young guns, destined for bigger things, poking their heads up from the Colts for the first time and getting used to dark arts of rugby league against seasoned blokes.

The likes of Roy Haggerty, Chris Arkwright and Barrie Ledger, who first displayed their rich promise the A team, would go on to become Great Britain internationals.

Others would be key figures in the A team with the likes of scrum half Johnny Smith and prop Tony Bolton doing their bit to nurture those fledgling starlets around them.

And you would also see plenty over from the amateur game - often under the guise of AN Others. Today they would be classed as late developers.

They all had a place.

Back then you would see fringe first teamers or those returning from injury, showing the coach they were ready for a shot.

Lads could, with an eye-catching display, play themselves into the first team panel for the weekend’s game.

It was a short-sighted decision to ditch reserve rugby - but thankfully the game has finally got a grip and made the competition mandatory for the 11 English Super League sides from 2020.

For Saints it means that the significant number of fringe first teamers - and those too old for age grade Academy rugby - will be able to get a regular game in the red vee.

It means coaches can play them where they want to, spot what they are doing well and work on any weaknesses.

Hopefully it will encourage clubs to grow their own, and give them a pathway as they mature.

It should mean we can keep more open age players in the game and when participation levels are falling, surely that is another good thing.

Some ask whether the game can afford it - but the truth it cannot afford not to.

And it is much cheaper growing your own, and if you look at Saints now their strategy of investing in an academy set up has helped strengthen the whole depth of the squad.

Surely, if all clubs followed the best practice of the league leaders then the game would be much stronger, from top to bottom.