Canberra Raiders Junior Rep Round 1 Preview
Author : Canberra Region Rugby League
When the Canberra Raiders claimed a memorable win against the Cronulla Sharks in Round 20 of last year, it was a result many years in the making.
With a host of established stars rested, ten players who had been part of the Raiders junior system took to the field for the club and showcased their talent in the NRL.
As the 2021 junior representative season begins this weekend, the building blocks for the next group of young boys and girls truly gets underway.
With the 2020 junior representative season cut short last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been challenges due to players missing valuable game time. However, a change in the age groups by NSWRL, as well as a new approach in training has helped negate that.
Each of the three grades has moved up one year in their age groups, which also compliments the Country Championships which have remained as Under 16 and Under 18 competitions.
“Now, we don’t need to make too hard of a call on players,” Raiders Head of Pathways & Performance, Dean Souter said.
“If there’s a kid who’s clearly not ready to be in an S.G. Ball or Harold Matthews environment, we can put them in the Riverina and Monaro pathway and bring them through the following year.”
The change in age groups has also allowed the Raiders to build upon a promising group of players in the Tarsha Gale Cup.
“Because of the success we had last season, we received a lot more attention from people who sit within our footprint – which is the Riverina down to the South Coast belt,” Souter said. “When the girls came back this season, every single one of them was recording better pre-season times than they were last year.
“They’re stronger, their bodies are a little more mature, they retained that understanding and base coaching we did last year which has allowed us to go to a second level of coaching this pre-season.
“We’ve had some of these girls for three seasons now and it’s starting to show in this particular year.”
The other change which has helped address the lack of rugby league in 2020 has been how players have been training above their age groups in pre-season.
“For example, at the S.G. Ball age, we’ve had a handful of players doing an NRL pre-season of training which sort of superchargers their conditioning, education as well as their knowledge and access to high quality coaches and training.,” Souter said.
With a number of other S.G. Ball squad members taking part in pre-season with the NSW Cup side, players from lower age groups moved up to the S.G. Ball squad.
“By doing that, everyone kind of benefited from it. We needed to do it because we think what happened last year left a bit of a void and this was our way of addressing how to fix it,” Souter said.
Thinking about the bigger picture of player development is part of how Souter defines success.
“What success looks like for us is how many people we can get to the next respective level,” Souter said. “It’s nice to have success along the way but our recruitment guys aren’t out there recruiting to win the S.G. Ball Cup competition.
“We’re out there to recruit players to build the best depth for this club that we possibly can.
“If we’ve got quality people pushing through – if the quality is very high- it keeps the pressure on the players that are in the system already and there’s a lot of internal competition. That’s designed deliberately.
“If we’re competing hard internally, the fruits of that competition start to show at the top level and Canberra gets a lot more success.”
The 2021 junior representative season begins this Saturday with the Raiders taking on the Cronulla Sharks in all three grades at Bruce Oval.
Meanwhile, the Andrew Johns Cup and Laurie Daley Cup competitions also start this weekend, with the Monaro Colts playing the Riverina Bulls on Saturday in both grades. All round one games of the Johns and Daley Cups will be live-streamed on the NSWRL Facebook page.
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