Illawarra Sports High students will have the opportunity to train under the tutelage of the state’s smartest rugby brains after the launch of a new agreement with the NSW Rugby Union.
The agreement sees the NSWRU establish a formal relationship with the seven sports high schools from around NSW.
As part of the program, students will have the opportunity to attend training camps and seminars run by NSWRU coaches, with NSWRU coaches also traveling down to Wollongong to run school training sessions.
Additionally, Illawarra Sports High coaching staff will be mentored by the NSWRU, allowing them to elevate the quality of coaching provided to all students at the school.
“The program gives the kids clear pathways,” Illawarra Sports High rugby director Ranay Hall said.
“They can see a goal, a pathway to get to the Waratahs. It’s a XVs program, but they also get exposure to the sevens program.
“Us coaches will also receive professional coaching, the students will have training days with all the Waratahs and coaches there. They will be exposed to elite coaches and players, and lectures.”
An initial squad of 15 girls and 15 boys will engage in the program full-time, with a development squad also to be established.
Crucially, Hall believes, is the inclusion of a heavy off-field focus in the program. Students will attend seminars regarding nutrition and education, with a focus on academics and preparing for life after rugby.
“They’re emphasising that it’s not all about sport. School and academics are important. Players can get injured at any stage, they might not make it to the Waratahs, that’s life. They have talked to the students about not putting all their eggs in one basket.
“They’re not just interested in junior elite players, they’re happy to have a development program as well. Not everyone has to be a champion at 12 years of age, the Waratahs spoke to us about how they had different paths in their careers, but still managed to get to where they are now.”