Schoolboy rugby in the Central West was given its biggest bump in a decade on Friday with the launch of the James Grant Cup, designed to bring a huge cohort of student numbers into the game and give them opportunities to easily link up with clubs in the region.
The two-day tournament will include 15 to 20 schools from the broader region submitting year 12 teams to take part in a two day exhibition of games at CSU Bathurst on March 23-24.
The tournament will run for at least three years, with potential for a girls carnival in that time as well.
Former Stannies student, Lions and Western Reds forward James Grant was humbled to have the tournament named after him and said school rugby was the key part of keeping participation numbers high.
"It's an honour to have the cup named after me, not just because of what I've done but because when I grew up, bush was bush footy. We played for our clubs and schools and that's all we wanted to play," he said.
"This is going to give so many kids to play footy ... I went through that sort of thing and it gave me the opportunity to play bush footy and school footy.
"Just for them to get this opportunity to play, you ask anyone and school footy is the best footy you'll ever play and it's great they've put the initiative together."
He said it was a key part of making rugby stronger in the region.
"The exciting thing about the schools competition is throwing back to when ruby was strong we had a really strong schools competition," Grant said.
"You've got to get kids playing regularly.
"The kids there will have some unbelievable opportunities, and you don't have to play for Australia to enjoy some of the opportunities rugby offers.
"You can be a number different tours and different career and playing pathways."
He said getting rugby back into schools, and then providing those links from school rugby into club football, was the key to having the junior game and colts competition rebound.
"This is what we need to do, we got so clouded about how to boost numbers but if you get kids playing at school, that's the base," Grant said.
Central West Rugby Union CEO Matt Tink said regional players will help provide links between clubs and schools, with several key players helping provide coaching roles across the two days.
"What we're looking at is clubs supporting the concept," he said.
"Not every school has a rugby teacher but they do have rugby kids or kids that want to try rugby or other sports.
"It's a good opportunity for kids who don't normally have the opportunity to get the right coaches and that sort of stuff."
He said five schools were locked in, with eight schools looking likely to jump on-board in coming days and weeks, with schools to be confirmed once all had been locked in.
Students will be roomed at CSU on the Monday night, with the university to provide career pathways advice sessions that evening.
Tink said the idea was to get kids who've never played having a run, and while he admitted the game wasn't always great to watch, "it's great to play" no matter your size and was easy to get hooked on.
"We'll have kids playing this tournament who've never played rugby before and that's great," Tink said.