New NRL pathway for central Queensland
Ashley Taylor is the modern poster-boy for kids playing rugby league in Toowoomba and surrounding regions with dreams of the big time, but the system that created the Titans star failed hundreds of others.
After 10 years the National Youth Competition will be no more in 2018 and it is the youngsters learning the game in regional centres throughout Queensland that shape as being the major benefactors.
While the NYC has showcased the elite talent of the under-20s age group for the past decade, it put untold pressure on young men not yet equipped to handle it and forced many to leave behind family and friends in order to pursue opportunities in larger cities such as Brisbane and Sydney.
Some, like Taylor, made the progression all the way through to the NRL but according to Central Queensland regional game development manager Dean Bosnich there are hundreds and hundreds who didn't.
Bosnich coached the Western Mustangs in the abbreviated state-wide under-20s competition run by the Queensland Rugby League this year and said the inclusion of the Mustangs in next year's 20-week competition is already influencing the decisions of talented youngsters not yet ready to leave home.
"For every Ash Taylor that goes through, there are hundreds of kids that come back and walk away from footy or had a really bad experience going to a big city so it messes them up in other areas of life," Bosnich told NRL.com.
"The kids from even Toowoomba struggle to go to the big cities and Toowoomba these days is a decent-sized town in itself. But for the kids out west, it is a huge ask for them as a 16 or 17-year-old to go to Brisbane or Sydney which is what has happened in the past.
"The amount of kids that we've got now who are turning away from offers to go to Sydney and Brisbane because they know the pathway is here is amazing."
The admission of the Mustangs into the Hastings Deering Colts competition next season has renewed hope that a team based out of Toowoomba will make an imminent return to the Intrust Super Cup.
QRL managing director Rob Moore hinted as much when he was in Toowoomba on Thursday for the announcement with the reach of the Mustangs securing a key rugby league area in the state that produced three of the greatest Queenslanders of all time in Arthur Beetson, Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston.
The Toowoomba Clydesdales last played in the Queensland Cup in 2006 but with centres such as Roma, Kingaroy and Goondiwindi to all feed into the Mustangs system Bosnich believes they will have a complete pathway all the way to Queensland's premier competition sooner rather than later.
"Every day you get asked when it's happening," said Bosnich, who now serves as coaching director for the Mustangs with Eugene Seddon to coach the under-20s next year and Brendan Wilson the 18s.
"It's been bandied about for a long time up here that there might be a Toowoomba team back in the Intrust Super Cup but there has never really ever been any progress made.
"Since we switched to the Western Mustangs there has been a lot of progress.
"The area is seeing that with the new branding of the Mustangs that there are some concrete results instead of talk.
"There's a very good buzz about it and people are really keen to see it happen.
"When we first raised the idea of creating the Western Mustangs and making it a regional team rather than just being out of Toowoomba I thought there'd be a bit more backlash from some of the traditionalists but it has been really well embraced.
"Everyone sees the reasoning behind it and by making it a regional team, not only do we get pathways and opportunities to the really rural kids it services the whole region for rugby league."
The Mustangs will enter the inaugural Hastings Deering Colts competition with high expectations having qualified for the semi-finals of this year's eight-week under-20s competition and with a graduating under-18s squad that claimed the Queensland title this year.