Sunday Territorian

Panthers provide blueprint to grow the game


IT brought a tear to Duncan MacGillivr­ay’s eye watching Penrith celebrate its thrilling NRL grand final victory over the Rabbitohs last Sunday.

The NRL NT pathways manager and former Panthers player was not only thrilled to see his club win its first title in 18 years, but over the moon at the formidable academy of stars it has built up.

That academy – establishe­d by rugby league identity Phil Gould when he was the club’s general manager – has become the envy of all NRL teams.

And MacGillivr­ay is building something similar in the

Territory. The respected mentor ran junior developmen­t camps for young boys and girls throughout the region at Marrara last week. He has been particular­ly pleased with the attendees from Alice Springs in a regional centre where the game continues to grow every year. And what better blueprint to follow than the Panthers, this year’s premiershi­pwinning squad chock-full of local stars from the western Sydney region, with players also drawn from the NSW central west, which has a strong Panthers presence.

“Gus (Phil) Gould has left an amazing legacy at that club with the academy program that he’s built,” MacGillivr­ay said. “Watching them win the premiershi­p brought a tear to my eye. Even when I started out there in 1995 they had a lot of players in their system from country areas. And now their squad is mainly local players – that’s the way it should be.”

MacGillivr­ay is having a similar influence with the way he’s growing rugby league in the Territory.

“We had 25 boys come up from Alice Springs and our developmen­t officer Matt Roberts does a fantastic job down there,” MacGillivr­ay said, with the camps teaching the kids physical competency and wrestle, speed developmen­t, nutrition and goal-setting.

“And 40 girls have come up from Alice Springs.

“We’ve had some great coaches involved, like (Cowboys pathways coach) Ben Jefferies and ( NRL coaching consultant) Neil Henry, (Darwin product and Jillaroos representa­tive) Meg Ward and (Jillaroos coach) Brad Donald.

“Girls’ rugby league is coming along in leaps and bounds.

“We now have under-13, 15 and 17 girls’ age groups in the NRL NT, and maybe under-18s next year. The Alice Springs girls who came up don’t play rugby league there yet, so we want to keep pushing opportunit­ies for them.”

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