For the first time ever, this Saturday (April 21) will see rugby league’s brightest stars clash in an historic State of Origin showdown as Queensland and New South Wales battle it out for the Darren Lockyer Shield at Penrith’s Centrebet Stadium.
The stunning success of rugby league’s elite Toyota Cup Under-20s competition in producing the next generation of NRL heroes has sparked the creation of a representative program that marks another exciting step in a development pathway unrivalled in Australian sport.
The introduction of the Toyota Under-20s State of Origin is a reflection of the status of the Toyota Cup both as a pathway for rugby league’s junior stars on the field and for the career and education opportunities it provides for them away from the game.
Rugby league already provides the best pathway possible for elite juniors to progress from the 16s and 18s ranks, through the 20s and onto the NRL, and the new Under-20s Origin event will just add an exciting new dimension to that pathway.
This Saturday, fans will not only experience the excitement and passion associated with one of the greatest interstate rivalries in sport, they are almost certain to notice some of Australia’s most well-known brands who have thrown their support behind this new concept including Toyota (as naming rights sponsor), GIO (NSW front-of-jersey sponsor), NOVA FM (Queensland front-of-jersey sponsor) and the back of jerseys featuring the National Anti-Tobacco Campaign.
What won’t be so obvious to fans watching the game is what the players do away from football - eight of the players selected are studying at university, five are doing apprenticeships, four are in traineeships, 12 are doing Certificate III Diplomas, and seven are in general employment.
The game’s commitment to developing the professional careers of players outside of rugby league is a result of the Toyota Cup’s strict ‘no work, no study, no play’ policy which has seen an impressive 98 per cent of players involved in some form of education and training, employment or combinations of both, over the past two years.
In support of rugby league’s ground-breaking work and study philosophy, Toyota will donate an education grant to the Man of the Match on Saturday night.
The QLD v NSW Under-20s Origin clash will not only be a valuable selection guide for the Junior Kangaroos team, it will provide a spectacular showpiece of the excitement, speed and skill that has made the Toyota Cup the envy of other codes.
In just four seasons, the Toyota Cup has produced 13 internationals, five State of Origin representatives and a host of the NRL’s biggest stars including International Rookie of the Year Jharal Yow Yeh, International Halfback of the Year Daly Cherry-Evans, and Test stars such as Tony Williams, Kieran Foran, Kevin Locke, Alex Glenn, Sam McKendry, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jamal Idris, Matt Duffie, Russell Parker, Ben Matulino, and Gareth Widdop.
They are among the more than 200 Toyota Cup graduates to reach the NRL since 2008, including some of the game’s most exciting talents in Chris Sandow, Ben Barba, Josh Dugan, Tariq Sims, Lachlan Coote and Tim Mannah.
The game will kick off at 7.30pm this Saturday April 21 at Centrebet Stadium, Penrith with tickets available through ProTicket (www.proticket.com.au, 1300 12 10 12, or ProTicket Outlets).
Ticketed NRL Club Members will be able to gain access to this match for free.
Junior Pass Card Holders who have activated their cards will also be able to gain free entry to this game.
The match will be televised live on Fox Sports 2 with a pre-game package from 7pm.
- NSWRL Harold Matthews Final: 3:35pm
- NSWRL SG Ball Cup Final: 5:20pm
- Toyota U20's State of Origin: 7:30pm