Australian Rugby Union’s Pathway to Gold program continues this year with the commencement of the Junior Gold Cup (JGC) this Saturday 14 February.
In 2014 the JGC saw over 1200 Rugby players compete, with that number set to be equaled in 2015, with the introduction of Logan and Ipswich to the competition.
With 24 JGC Centers around the country, players will be exposed to a national elite Rugby competition with even more Rugby players exposed during the trial period with the various state unions.
An additional fixture added to the JGC representative calendar is a match between the best NSW and Queensland players in both the Under 15s and Under 17s, which will be played at Ballymore during the Easter long weekend.
ARU General Manager Pathways and Performance, Ben Whitaker was pleased with the progress of the competition and the pathway in place for future Wallabies.
“The ARU has spent a fair amount time over the last two years looking at our pathways, both competition and program, to develop players as young as 14-15 years of age all the way through to the Wallabies.
“One thing we identified as key was to really provide opportunity and access to our best young players right across the country to high level training and playing.
“The Junior Gold Cup fills that void and it complements the work that gets done in representative Rugby in that age group at Junior clubs and schools.
“24 centers around the country seems like a lot, with 48 teams but we did that on purpose to make sure that we had the whole of the country covered.
“It leads us to have over 1200 kids involved in this program each year and that’s really critical to us because we don’t want to narrow the pathway at such a young age group. We want to keep it open to provide as much exposure as possible to as many young players as possible.”
The first match of the Junior Gold Cup in 2015 will take place between North Queensland and Darling Downs at Barlow Park, Cairns this Saturday February 14.
The full draw can be viewed here.
Western Australia looking to defend inaugural title
The Western Australian Junior Gold Cup squad has been working hard over the summer to give themselves the best chance of defending their Under 17 title.
In 2014 the western based side successfully held off a fast paced Victorians to win the match 28-19, at McGillivray Oval in Perth.
New Head Coach Grant Oakley has high hopes for his young charges.
“The team recognise the fact that last year’s group worked really hard to earn the respect that they got.
“The class of 2015 knows that they have a big challenge in front of them and we have been working hard towards that end.
“With only four players backing up it’s very much a new team and as such we have tried to keep as fresh start.
“The guys have been great in acknowledging the efforts of last year’s WA side but we want to write our own chapter.
“We have a healthy respect for what we’re up against and looking forward to challenge of the Junior Gold Cup.”
With players in the Under 17 Western Australian side coming from the WA school and club system, there is a healthy balance in the team as they look to defend the inaugural Under 17 Junior Gold Cup title.