Expert coaching boosts Academy Games athletes

ACADEMY GAMES 

While head-to-head competition can often steal the limelight, the top of-the-line training on offer at the Academy Games can be just as crucial to the young athletes' development.

Amid cycling races and rounds of golf, the Illawarra Academy's rugby program will experience professional training from elite coaches with the Australian Rugby Union.

The ARU's Sean Barrett and Simon Hackett will put the region's best young talent through their paces at the University of Wollongong.

Following a skills development session, players will play rugby sevens and tens matches.

Illawarra Academy player Joshua Fullerton-Harvey said it was a great way for young players to develop their game.

"It is going to be great because we will have the Australian coaches down and we will train with their coach and ours, too," he said. "I have really got to work on my field position so I really have to be looking out when we are doing that to get that done and get it right."

In addition to training with the best coaches, the programs allow athletes to enhance their skills alongside like-minded athletes.

"Playing and training with a higher-level bar to meet, it definitely helps everyone grow a lot faster because there is no one you have to wait for," Fullerton-Harvey said.

"It is all a challenge and you are all training to be better than everyone else, but in a good way."

Olympic gold medal paddler David Smith, from Warilla, opened the ceremony at the University of Wollongong on Friday night.

Like many of his Illawarra teammates, Fullerton-Harvey is targeting a spot on the NSW Country Championship team later this year.

But it all wouldn't have been possible if he didn't take the plunge on enhancing his young career.

"I have always wanted to be part of the academy but never thought I was good enough until I started to take my training a lot more seriously," he said.

"When I got into academy I was pretty happy and over the last year and this year I have improved over 150 per cent with the academy.

"They have taught me so much that I haven't even thought of. Even with what I am supposed to be thinking when I am playing the game and things like that."

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