Un­der-19s cho­sen for ap­pren­tice­ships

High-per­for­mance and re­ten­tion fo­cus for NRU

The Northern Advocate - - Sport - Adam Pearse

Anew age-group rugby de­vel­op­ment struc­ture is on the hori­zon for North­land’s young tal­ent. More than 100 un­der-19 play­ers from across North­land will be ex­posed to the new struc­ture, set to be­gin in 2019, which aimed to cre­ate a pro­fes­sional play­ing at­mos­phere within age-group rugby in the re­gion.

The struc­ture will be­gin with four groups of about a dozen male and fe­male play­ers be­tween 16 and 18 years of age from each of the main sub-unions; Whangarei, Bay of Is­lands, Man­gonui and North­ern Wairoa/Rod­ney, be­ing trained in a range of skills in a 10-week pe­riod be­fore the rugby sea­son starts.

The best of these play­ers will be put into an ap­pren­tice group of 10 to 12 elite play­ers to be given full strength and con­di­tion­ing sup­port as well as ex­ten­sive tac­ti­cal and tech­ni­cal train­ing through­out the year.

These play­ers will be pre­pared for the U19 acad­emy group the fol­low­ing year.

The struc­ture would be the first of its kind in North­land, re­plac­ing the U19 acad­emy, and looked to fill the gap be­tween junior rugby and Mitre 10 Cup level.

“If you have a look around the coun­try now, a lot of high schools have got re­ally good rugby pro­grammes and they are al­most like mini-acad­e­mies. We are miss­ing that in the re­gion,” North­land Rugby acad­emy man­ager Josh Hamilton said.

“I don’t think our younger play­ers have been given the op­por­tu­nity to be in a high­per­for­mance pro­gramme enough to learn things like val­ues and ethics, so that’s what’s been lack­ing.”

The struc­ture would teach play­ers more about the value of nu­tri­tion and func­tional move­ment which would al­low them to de­velop phys­i­cally and men­tally.

Hamilton said the new groups would take ad­van­tage of the play­ers with raw tal­ent in the re­gion.

“North­land would be on par or above with most other pro­vin­cial unions in terms of how much tal­ent is out there. The nat­u­ral raw tal­ent, the va­ri­ety of sports they play, it’s pretty won­der­ful.”

Hamilton hoped this pro­gramme would im­prove the re­gion’s lo­cal com­pe­ti­tions and pro­duce two or three play­ers who would make the New Zealand U20 camps.

He said play­ers with less tal­ent in other re­gions were ben­e­fit­ing be­cause these pro­fes­sional struc­tures al­lowed them to de­velop a lot faster and play­ers from North­land were hav­ing to move away to join them.

“Just this year, I’ve no­ticed five or six 15- to 16-year-olds get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to go to Auck­land and Waikato on full schol­ar­ships.”

He said this wasn’t a prob­lem as kids would move away for other rea­sons but he said he would like to see more play­ers stay in North­land to ex­pe­ri­ence the new struc­ture.

Play­ers will be se­lected for sub­union groups from nom­i­na­tions from clubs, schools, and coaches. Peo­ple will be able to make nom­i­na­tions be­fore Christ­mas and play­ers will be con­firmed early next year.

North­land Rugby Mitre 10 cup man­ager Brad Te Haara said us­ing a nom­i­na­tion process would al­low them to un­earth hid­den tal­ent.

“We haven’t got eyes ev­ery­where so we are happy to do some home­work on some­one we don’t know and or give some­one a punt who we don’t know if they’ve got some key things we’re look­ing for.”

Te Haara said with 3000 ju­niors play­ing rugby and the Tani­wha per­form­ing well, North­land needed some­thing in the mid­dle to keep play­ers in the re­gion.

“Auck­land has the best first XV com­pe­ti­tion in the world so, if we have some­thing in that space, that’s go­ing help kids want to stay be­cause there’s some­thing for rugby in that space.”

The pro­gramme was pi­loted last year with about 20 young play­ers, some of whom were se­lected for rep­re­sen­ta­tive teams. Te Haara said it would take time be­fore they could see the real ben­e­fit of the struc­ture.

“We won’t see the real fruits un­til the year af­ter. It’ll spread like wild­fire that some­thing’s there but the main pur­pose is not to stop kids go­ing to Auck­land and Hamilton. It’s about the kids that are here and want to stay.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on how to nom­i­nate a player, con­tact your lo­cal club or con­tact North­land Rugby.

PHOTO / SUP­PLIED

North­land’s U19 play­ers will have a new, pro­fes­sional look about them in the years to come.

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