Rugby Australia has today announced initial changes to its national talent management model and pathways for men's Rugby aimed at retaining and developing the best young talent in the game.
The changes come following a review by Rugby Australia in conjunction with the state unions and representatives of schools and junior club Rugby on the effectiveness of the current system in exposing, identifying and managing talent.
The review acknowledged the significant role performed by schools and junior club Rugby and the need for the game to provide continued support, while recognising a more effective balance is required to manage the development of talented players between individual school and club Rugby programs and representative and academy programs.
Under the new structure, all state-based academy programs will be split into stages, with the first stage being for school-aged 15 and 16-year-olds, the second stage for 17 and 18-year-olds, and stage three capturing school-leavers in the 18 to 20+ age group.
Player identification and development in stage one of the model will be supported by the Junior Gold Cup (U15) and the Junior Rugby Championship (U16). These national competitions provide a national level representative opportunity for the country’s best young players and enable state and regional selection. Importantly, players from outside these national competitions can still be selected for any state academy program via school and club programs.
The second stage of the model provides opportunity for players Under 17 to 18 to compete for their state academy teams in a series of matches in 2019, scheduled to work in with the various school and junior club competitions across Australia.
As players exit school they will enter stage three of the academy model working closely with senior clubs and competitions. Players in these programs will play representative matches in the new Under 19 Rugby Championship (URC), the National Rugby Championship (NRC) and battle for selection in the Junior Wallabies and onto Super Rugby selection.
As part of the changes, Rugby Australia will redirect a portion of its current $450,000 investment in the National Schoolboy Championships and National Schoolboy teams to implement the National Schools Strategy - specifically safety programs, coach development and creating greater opportunities for school students to access Rugby.
Rugby Australia will also continue its investment in a National Under 18 team program, incorporating school and non-school Under 18 players to play international fixtures on an annual basis and access development programs; state Under 18 teams and match programs; and an enhanced school and non-school Under 18 level coach development program.
Rugby Australia General Manager High Performance, Ben Whitaker said: “We have worked closely with the state unions and stakeholders at school and junior club levels to understand how we can work more effectively together to manage talent from 14 to 20-plus years-of-age.
“We have honestly assessed the gaps in our current system that needed to be addressed. It’s never easy to land on a model that every single stakeholder is completely happy with, however, we have taken a consultative approach that acknowledges the needs and tremendous value that schools and clubs deliver through these age groups.
“Players will be provided access and opportunities to be involved in quality development programs and competitions through this model, whilst also being able to compete for their respective schools and clubs. Additionally, the national and state talent management system will be inclusive of coach and match official development.
“Importantly, there is no reduction in investment via this model – but more a redirecting of investment to support growth in schools and club Rugby through key National Schools Strategy areas such as safety, coaching development and competitions.”