Rugby Union faces increasing challenge from the work of other sports and the decrease in athletic pursuits of our youth demographic to recruit and retain a pool of players in the 14-19 year age group that can effectively contribute to the health of the game at participation and high performance levels. Rugby is fortunate in that it possesses a varied competition and representative system as well as advanced talent development programs coordinated nationally across the country. Many key stakeholders, both volunteer and employed, work hard to build and develop opportunities for our young players to play the game and progress to higher levels of performance. At times the current representative and talent development pathway can be confusing to players and parents as well as requiring considerable financial investment by the player/families in order to be involved at the various levels and options available.
In these challenging times, it is has been proposed that a new and innovative model that combines representative level rugby and talent development programming for players U15-17 be developed by the group of key stakeholders and lead by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU).
For 2014 the ARU have with other partners have proposed a program that see’s players not only getting rugby development through great coaching and growing programs but development with health and life choices. The model combines current national talent development programs (Junior Gold Program) and various junior rugby representative programs to create a high level development and competition model at U15 and U17 age grade level for selected metropolitan, regional and state based team involvement. The ‘partnership’ approach taken by all key stakeholders involved in the development and design process is viewed as an important element that will enable Rugby to meet the challenges currently faced and move ahead via the one united strategy. The program will be called the Junior Gold Cup.
Due to the limited number of players in these age groups, the Northern Territory will not participate in the competition for at least two years. The focus for the next 3 years will be on developing a program which aims to prepare both players and coaches for a possible entry into the competition in 2016-17.