The Illawarra’s top young rugby talent will feature in a ground-breaking new national competition when the ARU’s Junior Gold Cup launches next year.
Open trials were held at Wollongong University last night and continue this evening, with players from all of the Illawarra’s 10 rugby clubs vying for positions in the under-17s and under-15s squads to contest the elite level competition in February.
ARU development manager Sean Barrett said the competition was the first of its kind in Australia.
‘‘We’ve had development programs like this before but it’s just been in a training environment,’’ Barrett said.
‘‘What we’ve done this time is have a development phase into a competition phase.
‘‘November-December it’s an up-skilling training environment with off and on field training, then come middle of February we’re in a competition phase for six weeks.’’
‘‘It’s about testing them nationwide with all the talent scouts out there to ensure they’re developing at the accelerated rate we need them to to potentially become Australian Schoolboys, Australian under-20s, Waratahs and ultimately Wallabies.’’
Former Vikings mentors Jay Tregonning and Phill Green will coach the under-17s, while Tony Leeder-Smith and Chris Sellar will coach the under-15s.
‘‘Jay played Sydney first grade for a number of years and he’s a former [NSW Country] Cockatoos coach.
‘‘Phill Green has a long history with Vikings and is the current under-20s Cockatoos coach,’’ Barrett said.
‘‘Tony Leeder-Smith has done a lot with Illawarra rep and NSW country rep in the junior age groups and Chris Sellar is a good young developing coach.’’
Barrett said that the competition will highlight the strength of Illawarra junior rugby.
Full squads will be named on Tuesday next week.