Through green eyes: The plan to "reform" junior development

 
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Don Furner
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 2:51 pm
Through green eyes: Why Canberra Raiders fans should be closely watching the plan to "reform" junior development

The NRL has been conducting a wide ranging review of the development pathways for rugby league. As one former Blue currently in the news might have said: It's been a looooooong time in the making.

The Canberra Raiders, and other clubs like the Penrith Panthers and St George Illawarra Dragons, spend a lot of time and money developing junior rugby league. For a looooooong time, some of the big, rich clubs, particularly those with small junior areas, have simply chosen to poach players from other clubs. You all know who they are. They poach without compunction, and without compensation to the clubs who do invest in development of juniors.

The Canberra Raiders reached a tipping point in the past year when Anthony Milford was poached by the Brisbane Broncos from the Raiders. Logan based, Milford was given a scholarship at a young age by the Raiders. He was actually overlooked by the Brisbane Broncos. He was too small.

The Raiders saw the talent, and invested in his development. He played in the juniors for the Raiders' feeder team, Souths Logan. He was eventually brought to Canberra for the Under 18s competition, made a mark, and almost instantly progressed to the Raiders Under 20s team. He quickly made firsts. And then almost as quickly he was signed by the Brisbane Broncos. It was reportedly for a contract worth less than half that offered by Canberra... at least in terms of what was charged to the salary cap.

For the Canberra Raiders, it was a tipping point. It led the club to finally conclude that the costs of investing in junior development are not paying off under the NRL's current rules. As a first step, the Raiders decided to stop funding junior development in Souths Logan. And since then, Canberra has become a leading advocate for greater incentives for junior development from the NRL, and compensation when juniors are poached by other clubs.

"We will never move away from the juniors because we do service a big area but, financially and commercially, how much we put into that region and that area will be heavily scrutinised in the next 12 months" Raiders CEO Don Furner said earlier this year.

"There's not a huge incentive to keep investing the money we do in those areas. Even though you see great juniors come through, there's 10 or 12 clubs that let certain clubs do the heavy lifting in that regard and it's something that we constantly talk to the NRL about."

When the NRL recruited South Sydney CEO Shane Richardson to focus on "game strategy" this year, he was put onto the review of junior development. The results are now being put to NRL clubs and Richardson's proposals are leaking out.

Clearly not everything has yet been announced as yet, and the reports may not be fully accurate. But there are some worrying features of the proposals.

# The National Youth Competition will be abolished, once the current TV deal expires in 2017. Coaches have increasingly concluded that it does not prepare players effectively for the NRL. The competition is exciting, it rates well on pay television and has been a good breeding ground for first graders. But defence has not been a strong feature of the competition, and many players need some extra time in NSW or Queensland Cup before they are ready for firsts, particularly forwards. Now it is seen as an overhead by the money men, just as "reserve grade" was when it was all but abandoned - at the time the NYC was created. It will save clubs $1 million each.

# The Richardson plan will restore the NSW Cup and Queensland Cup as the primary “feeder” grade for the NRL. Sort of. It doesn’t look like NSW Cup matches will feature as ”warm up” games for NRL matches, as the NSW Cup will expand to include Fiji and two regional teams in a 14 team competition, and there'll be fewer Sydney teams. It's being suggested NSW Cup will still be played at "secondary venues". The only game you’ll get is the NRL match on game day. Many clubs have been trying to kill off the lower grades for some time, again to cut costs. They see their "clubs" as one team "franchises". Looks like they’ll finally succeed. Meanwhile, the fans pay the same for one game... instead of two or three.

# Richardson has been an advocate of a shift to an external draft and central funding of junior development by the NRL. That idea of a draft looks to have been dropped - as it is "not consistent with rugby league culture". It's now proposed that in 2018 NRL clubs will have 30 man top grade squads (compared to 25 at present). Clubs will be prohibited from signing players under the age of 18 (15 at present). Country players will not be permitted to move to “Sydney” until they finish high school at age 18. NRL clubs will be able to each select three (2018), then six (from 2019), rookies who are under 19, from anywhere they choose. It will be up to the rookie to choose if more than one club is interested.

# It is not clear how that marries up with the current junior reps programs. It had been suggested Under 20s might go back to a format that is similar to Under 18s and 16s, which are short nine week competitions. Some reports suggest Under 20s may be an 18 week competition. Presumably there will still be a Canberra Raiders junior representatives program, but it's not clear how that works if NRL clubs cannot sign junior players...

What worries me most is: How does this actually improve junior development? And who does the development? And who funds it?

You can cut "costs" for clubs, but in doing that you are also cutting the investment in junior development. The reports so far are not touting massive new investment from the NRL in juniors, or that the NRL will take over all junior development, as in AFL. Rugby league supporters have been hoping that the NRL's next TV deal would at least equal that of AFL so that investment in junior rugby league at least matches AFL. It looks like the NRL will again be left in the shade on TV rights, so there goes that idea...

At the same time, there doesn't seem to be much incentive for clubs to invest in junior development programs under this model. It looks like the same old model, where some clubs invest, while others grab their "rookies" quota from others. Because the draft has been dropped, the rich clubs will snap up the best rookies. And, in the meantime, by not tying up the younger players to contracts, you leave them wide open for recruitment from other sports, in particular, rugby union.

Given Canberra is the main club for NSW Country players, many won't get to the nation's capital until they are 18 years old at the earliest, and they’re going to be missing out on the best development programs.

Many players are going to be left by the wayside as a result of what is on the table.

In changing things, you've also got to think about the things you might lose. Rugby league has had an advantage over other sports, in that its networks of leagues clubs have generated a lot of cash for junior football. In fact, its actually their responsibility to promulgate and develop the sport. That’s why they were created. I can see why they wonder about investing in their district’s footy, if, after all this time and investigation, the NRL’s rules still allow other clubs to profit from those investments.

Junior development is one of rugby league’s strengths. There's still a lot of unanswered questions. But the moment, it looks like it is being put at risk.

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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 3:39 pm
Only one match on game day would end my membership of the raiders. I won't be driving from Newcastle to Canberra for only 1 game and f all entertainment. 8hrs driving for 1.5 hrs of "entertainment" where much of the match is spent shaking my head at how badly we get dudded
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 7:52 pm
While I'm supportive of the U20's being ditched as the NRL's pseudo second tier comp and I hate the idea of a draft system, I think the ARLC and the NRL have lost the plot entirely with junior development.

As you say Greeneyed, there is no apparent incentive in the proposed model for the NRL clubs to invest in regional junior development...or regional football at any level for that matter. At least the 20's forced all clubs to put money into elite junior development.

Furthermore, I have no idea what this element of the proposal even really means:

NRL clubs will be able to each select three (2018), then six (from 2019), rookies who are under 19, from anywhere they choose. It will be up to the rookie to choose if more than one club is interested.


So now they are basically putting a cap on how many young players a club can recruit? What is the purpose of this?

The word shambles gets thrown around here quite a bit (perhaps too often), but in this case it is really fitting. There is no real plan by the ARLC or the NRL to promote the code from the grassroots level, or get the NRL clubs involved in investing in the underlying health of the game. It's ridiculous.
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Don Furner
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 8:02 pm
The idea of abandoning the Holden Cup is highly retrograde IMO, it looks like there will be no national competition at anything other than NRL level.

The Sydney clubs achieved the abandonment of the NSW Premier League through the introduction of the NYC. Now the same people will achieve the abandonment of the NYC. All in the name of cost saving.

I just can't understand how anyone sees this as a good idea.
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 8:04 pm
I think perhaps we should wait until we know all the facts about what Richardson is proposing before we jump the gun.

So far all we have is "leaked details", mostly reported by News Ltd who have had an axe to grind against the ARLC since the dawn of time

Maybe David Smith and Shane Richardson are complete **** idiots and have the code circling the drain, or maybe, just maybe there is more to this overhaul than we've been presented with so far, i don't know yet, and neither do any of you.

Let's take a deep one, relax and wait until we have all the details in front of use before we over react.
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 8:11 pm
Ditching the U20's as a premier competition is the right move IMO. I think the NRL's second tier needs to be a senior grade competition (or competitions as the case may be). The under 20's simply does not prepare the majority of players for NRL level football. It's simply not working.

I just don't understand the mentality of "cost cutting" junior development in an era where more money than ever is coming to the clubs. Now is the time to think about the long term health of the code instead of funnelling millions of dollars into the pockets of a handful of elite players.
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Don Furner
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 8:18 pm
Nick, that's very true, as noted in the story. We don't have the full picture, although some of the picture is very clear, for example, the abolition of Holden Cup. We have our own CEO on the public record on this, it's not "leaked".

The story isn't titled, "Why Canberra Raiders fans should be afraid, very afraid, of the plan to "reform" junior development".

The story is titled, "Why Canberra Raiders fans should be closely watching the plan to "reform" junior development".

And given what David Smith is delivering, it seems like a reasonable admonition.
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Don Furner
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 8:20 pm
Seiffert82 wrote:Ditching the U20's as a premier competition is the right move IMO. I think the NRL's second tier needs to be a senior grade competition (or competitions as the case may be). The under 20's simply does not prepare the majority of players for NRL level football. It's simply not working.

I just don't understand the mentality of "cost cutting" junior development in an era where more money than ever is coming to the clubs. Now is the time to think about the long term health of the code instead of funnelling millions of dollars into the pockets of a handful of elite players.


That is what worries me Seiffert. The whole thing, as reported, so far, is about "cost cutting" of "overheads". The "overheads", as far as I can see, are: "being a footy club". They are not "overheads". It is the very thing the clubs have been established to do!
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 8:23 pm
Yeah, look i know you love the **** out the U20s, but most NRL fans and experts agree that inspite of it's popularity in terms of TV ratings, it's bad for development of our talent, and it's a flawed concept that needs to be replaced.

I guess what im trying to say is you might be really upset about the abolishment of the U20's, but i think most fans agree it's for the best and do not share your love affair for 46-32 games
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Don Furner
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 8:36 pm
I cannot see how it is "bad" for the development of players. We have always had Under 20s or Under 21s or Under 23s. It used to be called Presidents Cup. We actually NEED this grade for the purpose of developing players.

The very concerning thing about the Richardson plan is that it seems to assume that playing in the backyard is OK until players turn 18. Then somehow, magically, they are NRL ready players!

Where does the "development" happen? It can't just happen on high school ovals in Parkes. It can't happen without some form of competition between the best of the best players playing against each other.

It is like these people devising the strategic plans have never seen how a footy club works.
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 8:44 pm
greeneyed wrote:I cannot see how it is "bad" for the development of players. We have always had Under 20s or Under 21s or Under 23s. It used to be called Presidents Cup. We actually NEED this grade for the purpose of developing players.



And when it was called the Presidents Cup, it wasn't RL's "reserve grade" competition as it is now. That's where it's bad and why it needs to change, going from 20's to NRL is not a good path way for our young talent, and almost everyone except you knows it.
Yes we do need that grade, we also need 1, maybe even 2 national grades between it and FG if we want to improve the development structure.

But look, i've seen how you get with these "Through green eyes" posts, there is quite literally no use in engaging you in these threads. Blinkers are glued on, so BOLWE.
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 8:48 pm
Can we just all agree to rename this segment from "Through green eyes" to "Old man yells at clouds" and be done with it??
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Don Furner
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 8:49 pm
I think what you've said, that we need another national level grade... I'd actually be fine with that. If we were going to have a national premier league or something like that, to replace NYC... then that'd be different. But we're not going to. What we're going to have is the abolition of NYC, and pretty much what we've got now at reserve grade level.
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 8:50 pm
The Nickman wrote:Can we just all agree to rename this segment from "Through green eyes" to "Old man yells at clouds" and be done with it??


Getting pretty old, Nick II.
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 8:52 pm
greeneyed wrote:
The Nickman wrote:Can we just all agree to rename this segment from "Through green eyes" to "Old man yells at clouds" and be done with it??

Getting pretty old, Nick II.

Yeah, I know you are, but I still love you like a crazy uncle, big guy.
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Don Furner
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 8:56 pm
This is a serious issue for the future of the club... oh, forget it!
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 11:23 pm
Back in the day we had under 23s Before reserve grade. That was a pretty good set up I reckon.
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 11:48 pm
Not many other pro comps play more games on the same day as game day.

IMO if the nrl started pumping money into junior development to increase the numbers playing the game taking it off the clubs this could only be a good thing.
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Don Furner
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PostPosted: August 22, 2015, 11:50 pm
If they did. That's a big if.
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PostPosted: August 25, 2015, 10:51 pm
Clubs to tackle NRL on development issues after pathways summit

The NRL is about to engage in another battle with its clubs as they meet with the NSW Rugby League from Wednesday to thrash out concerns over the abolition of the National Youth Competition.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/rugby-l ... z3jpYqdZ5D
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Don Furner
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PostPosted: August 25, 2015, 11:02 pm
It's understood the League is considering basing the NSW model on that of the Queensland Cup, with players expected to graduate into an open-age competition from the SG Ball. However, there are concerns the jump from the under-18s is too big a leap and talented youngsters may fall through the cracks in the transition.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/rugby-l ... z3jpbHRmv0

How is that the Queensland Cup model? There's a National Youth Competition where Queensland Cup U18s players progress to Queensland NRL clubs and other NRL clubs. I honestly wonder what on earth they are thinking at the NRL at times.
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PostPosted: August 26, 2015, 9:03 am
I think bringing back an actual reserve grade side would be better. I agree the step up from u20s to NRL is too much for most. I don't care how they want to breakdown the junior ranks, and/ or NSW Cup and QLD Cup, but the current system, at least at the very top, doesn't work.

I think you increase the squad size from 25 to 45-50 (or even 53 like the NFL), so you can fill 2 sides, an NRL side and a reserves side. If that means you have a few 16, 17 or 18 yr olds coz they are seen as good enough, so be it. You could still break the cap down into 2 if you like, with a top 25 and a 2nd 25 (or whatever the remained is), but that becomes the entire Club squad and the minimum investment a club must make.

I think you would find there will still be youth comps, so SG Ball, Harold Mats, etc would probably continue as normal.

The main focus is the very top, and currently is doesn't work.
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Laurie Daley
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PostPosted: August 26, 2015, 9:30 am
I think the proposal is for a squad of 30 + 6 under 19's. I assume other players would have to come out of feeder arrangements.
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PostPosted: August 26, 2015, 9:50 am
Great original post GE
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PostPosted: August 26, 2015, 11:38 am
The 1 game on game day thing...... is there any reason why local or regional clubs can't still play the games at Canberra Stadium on game day?
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Don Furner
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PostPosted: August 26, 2015, 12:31 pm
They're not the Raiders... I also suspect clubs would prefer just one game, as it cuts the cost of the workforce on game day by half.
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PostPosted: August 26, 2015, 1:41 pm
greeneyed wrote:They're not the Raiders... I also suspect clubs would prefer just one game, as it cuts the cost of the workforce on game day by half.


Ok so there's no real reason other than cost. Will be interesting to see what happens.
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PostPosted: August 26, 2015, 4:10 pm
First grade
Reserve grade
Third Grade
Fourth grade or under 19's or whatever

Personally I love to see young Raider kids come through the grades, see if he can bring the talent and toughness.

Unlike many sports, always thought its great how Rugby League have more than one game on match day.

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PostPosted: August 26, 2015, 5:12 pm
When the nyc goes flegg needs to come back or presidents cup u23s
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Don Furner
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PostPosted: September 3, 2015, 7:42 pm
Clubs unite for a summit to block NRL's pathway overhaul

The NRL is facing a fresh rebellion over its plans to overhaul development pathways, with clubs united in their belief there needs to be a suitable replacement if the National Youth Competition is disbanded.

Representatives from NSW Cup and NRL clubs converged on Canterbury Leagues Club for a summit on Thursday to discuss concerns over how Shane Richardson's "whole of game" manifesto will affect the pathway to first grade.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/rugby-l ... z3kfQHkdGz
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Don Furner
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PostPosted: September 3, 2015, 7:44 pm
Richardson is hopeless.
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PostPosted: September 3, 2015, 7:47 pm
Just sack Richardson and get someone else to have a shot.
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PostPosted: September 5, 2015, 11:20 am
Matt wrote:I think bringing back an actual reserve grade side would be better. I agree the step up from u20s to NRL is too much for most. I don't care how they want to breakdown the junior ranks, and/ or NSW Cup and QLD Cup, but the current system, at least at the very top, doesn't work.

I think you increase the squad size from 25 to 45-50 (or even 53 like the NFL), so you can fill 2 sides, an NRL side and a reserves side. If that means you have a few 16, 17 or 18 yr olds coz they are seen as good enough, so be it. You could still break the cap down into 2 if you like, with a top 25 and a 2nd 25 (or whatever the remained is), but that becomes the entire Club squad and the minimum investment a club must make.

I think you would find there will still be youth comps, so SG Ball, Harold Mats, etc would probably continue as normal.

The main focus is the very top, and currently is doesn't work.

I'm with you on bringing back Reserve Grade. I cannot see how the Raiders funding the Mounties does anything for local development.

It would ensure that the coaching strategies in the NRL are more closely aligned at that level and young players would continue to have a step where they get to play alongside older, bigger and/or more experienced players.

I couldn't care less about U20s. It's like a bad game of touch footy with some players having so little skill you can't believe they got that far in the system. If a Reserve Grade isn't possible, then increase the age to U23 so we're not losing players early and the youngsters get a near Reserve Grade experience.

This idea of not being able to sign players until they're 18 is nuts. They'll miss out on semi-professional development for about 3 years and the overall standard of players coming through will eventually drop.

BTW, the Raiders sponsor the Canberra Raiders Cup. Why are we not seeing the match of the round being played as a curtain-raiser at Canberra Stadium? I wouldn't mind betting the defence in that comp is better than what we see in the U20s.

One last thing. I know this is all about player development, but how in Hell is the ARLC not thinking about junior referee development? Considering the biggest aggravation fans suffer through every round of every season is the abysmal quality of the refs, this should be a priority.
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Ruben Wiki
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PostPosted: September 5, 2015, 5:24 pm
Most of the suggestions are pretty crap really... I've got no real issue with removing the under 20's except that I think people aren't looking at the good it's done. It's kept a lot of players in Rugby League when other codes may otherwise have poached them as they wouldn't be getting any game or camera time until years later otherwise.

The entire thing just reeks of change for changes sake... It's not directly, or even indirectly, addressing any of the issues or problems junior development in Rugby League is facing at all...

It seems insane with all the extra cash coming into the sport now through the TV deals that people are still crying over money... It's just typical greedy corporate types trying to turn Rugby League even more of a business than it already is... I've yet to see a club CEO begging in the streets, and that includes the clubs with money problems... We should be spending more on juniors, not less...
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David Grant
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PostPosted: September 5, 2015, 6:42 pm
The part about not signing people until their 18 is interesting... I've heard the various cons spoken about a lot but I think organisations always feel that they need to persevere with products that they have put a lot of money into... If you've had a kid on scholarship since he was 15 and by 19 he's not looking so crash hot, it's easy to hang onto that 'investment' too long... Maybe grabbing them at 18 will have benefits in that regard...

On a loosely related note I agree with canning the 20s... It forces clubs to hang onto too many 18-20 year olds and lose 21-25 year olds in the process...
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