The launch of the Andrew Johns and Laurie Daley Cups is the first step towards NRL clubs each having regional feeder teams playing in a revamped NSW Cup competition.
The Newcastle Knights, Penrith Panthers, St George Illawarra Dragons (Illawarra/South Coast Dragons) and Sydney Roosters (Central Coast Roosters) are aligned with franchises in the new Andrew Johns Cup U16s and Laurie Daley Cup U18s competitions featuring teams from NSW Country areas.
The newly created Greater Southern Region Wests Tigers are another of the eight franchises aligned to NRL clubs, while Canberra Raiders have formed affiliations with both the Monaro Colts and Riverina Bulls.
The Panthers and Knights will also enter teams in addition to their relationships with the Western Rams and Newcastle Region.
It is envisaged that eventually each of the 11 NSW-based clubs will partner with a regional franchise and take responsibility for development in the area, which could eventually host a team in a genuine second-tier state competition mirroring Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup.
Gold Coast Titans could also align with a northern NSW franchise.
“It is a vision of the ARLC that each of the 16 NRL clubs will have approximately two affiliates in regional areas,” NRL head of football Brian Canavan said.
“This enables areas that are well down the track with their thinking – Wagga, Tamworth, Dubbo and others who have already put their names on a piece of paper - to entertain very seriously entering the NSW State Cup, and sustainability will be afforded because they have got all players coming through these programs.“
Country Rugby League chairman John Anderson said the support of NRL clubs and the financial backing of the Australian Rugby League Commission would enable young players to remain in their home towns while receiving the same coaching and training as their city counterparts.
“The support from the ARLC has enabled us to extend the number of players in our elite pathways and enables us to provide a broad network of support for the players and the staff administering those competitions,” Anderson said.
“The support from the NRL clubs ensures our players receive the coaching, training and education they require to further their careers in the game without having to leave the comfort of their home towns during their schooling years, which is very important for kids from the bush.”
Daley recounted his experience as a 16-year-old moving from Junee to join the Raiders.
“I hated the first six months, and wanted to walk away plenty of times. I still think it is too young and going from the bush into a system at an NRL club is a big shock – the training is a big shock, the demands are a big shock and living away from home is a big shock,” Daley said.
“I think this is a great opportunity for young guys to learn more about themselves by staying in their home towns. They get access to strength and conditioning programs, skills programming, teaching of the game and having the luxury of not having to move away from home before it is necessary.”
After growing up in Cessnock and playing for the Knights, Johns did not have to move away from home when he was young.
“I reckon it would be incredibly difficult for a young guy to move from a regional area to Sydney, and move away from their family unit – especially around that age when kids are 16-18 years old,” Johns said.
“It doesn’t matter what the club does around welfare or living with a family when they move away from home, you need your own mum and day and even your brothers advising you.”