New league comp would let juniors stay in country areas

TALENTED rugby league juniors will be able to stay in country areas if a new Country Rugby League pathway is approved by the NRL.

A proposal put forward by the CRL would see a state-wide competition played at the start of the year, and would pit the local East Coast Dolphins against seven other regions.

As it is now, the Dolphins participate in the Country Championships, the fixtures of which are squashed into one weekend.

Finalists play a second week, but that is as far as the competition goes.

CRL regional area manager Kevin Hill said it would give junior players a better chance to play high-quality competitions.

"The CRL believe it will be the pathway keep players at their clubs rather than forcing them to move to Sydney," Hill said.

Under the current systems, talented youngsters identified by professional rugby league clubs usually have to move to Sydney or Brisbane to give themselves a better chance of securing a contract.

Once there they align with senior clubs and compete in the under-16 Harold Matthews Cup or under-18 S.G Ball competitions in NSW, or Queensland equivalents Cyril Connell and Mal Meninga Cup.

The new CRL competition would see the regions divided into northern and southern pools for a four-week home and away series.

The winner of each pool would face off the following week to crown the best U16 and U18 teams in Country NSW.

Hill said the plan would see NRL clubs align themselves with a region, who could provide extra talent identification and training opportunities.

"The idea is they would get more involved with the players, and juniors wouldn't have to leave their home town to play at the higher level," Hill said.

"To run a competition like this they'll need funding."

If funding is approved by the NRL it is expected the competition would start in 2016.

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