The best young league players in the region could be playing in a state cup competition within five years – without having to move to Sydney – if the vision of NSW administrators is realised.
NSW Rugby League chief executive, David Trodden, says the sport is committed to creating clearly-defined pathways from junior footy to the NRL. That means viable teams from regional areas in the second-tier comp.
“One of the strategies the NRL is working on is expanding the state cups,” Trodden said earlier this week.
“The vision is by 2022 there’d be four extra teams and at least three of those from regional areas. We want second-tier teams in strategically important areas in regional NSW.
“For that to work, two things have to happen: regionally-based teams have to have a pathway to an NRL club… and they need to have the infrastructure and competition below them to sustain a team.
“So we need in those areas, centres of excellence staffed by qualified coaches, with the sophisticated sports science and strength and conditioning programs that you need for young footballers to develop.”
Trodden says a system that allows players to remain in the bush is the key.
“More clearly-defined pathways for regional NSW keeps country players in the country,” he said. “If young footballers still have to come to Sydney (to try to make the NRL), it won’t work at all.”
It’s believed league officials would look at establishing teams in the north-west, the south west and the central west, with the likes of Dubbo, Bathurst, Mudgee and Orange all potential bases.
However, the NSWRL currently has no jurisdiction over rugby league in the ‘bush’, which is governed by the CRL. Trodden confirmed the NSWRL wants a single body to oversee the state, but one including fair country representation.
“It would never work if metropolitan Sydney was seen to be a dominant influence,” he said.