It's no secret that community sports don't run without a healthy volunteer base and NSW Country Rugby Union has signalled its intention to bolster its ranks.
Over the next three years, the governing body for rugby union in country areas is determined to implement initiatives and programs to increase the support network for on and off-the-field roles, including coach and match official development.
After taking on the position of president in June this year following the retirement of Orange's Barry Ruddy, New England's Luke Stephen was re-elected into the role at Saturday's Annual General Meeting and will hold it until 2024.
"Obviously to be re-elected, and to have a full three years to drive initiatives of Country Rugby with the board, is a great honour," he said.
"We have set ourselves up over the last six months with some initiatives to grow the game, both on and off the field, so it will be great to watch those come to fruition."
As a former player, current coach and referee, Stephen understands the importance of a support network for those roles in the game.
He said it is a priority for country rugby to develop coaches and match officials from the ground level up and implement support networks for those participants to better their coaching and officiating abilities.
The board of country rugby is now in a position where we are focusing on a lot more than just what happens with representative carnivals and representative programs.Luke Stephen
"Whether it is under 6s participating and going to a training game for the first time or it's first grade men's and women's across country NSW, we want to ensure coaches and match officials have the support they need to continue to develop their own skill set and also continue to have that love of the game which sees them involved," he said.
"The board of country rugby is now in a position where we are focusing on a lot more than just what happens with representative carnivals and representative programs.
"We realise the more we can invest in that space, the better experiences that those volunteers are going to have and the likelihood they stay on, which in turn drives positive cultures in clubs and maintains participation rates."
The process has already started with the board preparing to provide information to zones on how they can bring in these structures.
"Some of those initiatives have been flagged with our zones and we will be looking forward with going out with some information shortly with how the clubs and zones can work on that. We have a fantastic volunteer base right across our nine zones, from men's, women's down to juniors, and it is great to be able to look initiatives to support those people and participation in the game," Stephen said.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: