Former Maroons and Kangaroos legend Brent Tate believes the game's brightest young talent should be incorporated into the state leagues as a way of not only developing their football but improving them as young men.
The present Holden Cup under-20s competition will again go ahead in 2017 but steps are being put in place for it to be absorbed into the New South Wales and Queensland state leagues from 2018 as a reconfigured development pathway.
Writing in the Round 11 issue of Big League this week, Tate said his exposure to Queensland's Intrust Super Cup at just 17 years of age fast-tracked his rugby league education and gave him the motivation to strive to one day wear the Broncos jersey in first grade.
"My teammates taught me so much when I was young, because most of them were a lot older than me and were battled-hardened," Tate says in Big League. "It provides young players with a great chance to play alongside mentors.
"The older players always kept the younger guys in check. They taught us about respect and how to train and prepare properly. When we played against other teams we had to learn quickly that you weren’t able to take a backwards step and if we did, the older players were there to help. They never let us get ahead of ourselves.
"I learnt from the experienced guys, not only about football but also life skills. We were far more accountable to the senior players – even more than most coaches."
Tate, who made his NRL debut at 19 years of age and went on to play 229 games for the Broncos, Warriors and Cowboys has concerns that the current system gives a false sense to young players that they have already hit the big time.
"The jump from under-20s to first grade is too high and these young players need a chance to come up against older guys before playing NRL," says Tate.
"Only a small percentage of players in the NYC will make the step to first grade straight away, which can also give false hope. Realistically, only a handful of them will go on to play in the NRL.
"The current juniors are given too much, too early. They play in big stadiums and are exposed to jumping on planes and wearing the club’s colours. Young players should have to work for more.
"When we were in reserve grade I played hard because I wanted to play in the big stadiums with the big crowds and most importantly, wear the Broncos jersey. I had to fight for and earn the chance to play on the big stage."
The Round 11 issue of Big League is on sale now from newsagents and at the ground. Digital version also available via zinio.com or the Zinio app on iTunes and Google Play.