The influence of the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship has been underscored with the news that a host of players from last year’s competition have signed fresh contracts with Super Rugby franchises for 2016 and beyond in the past 48 hours.
Props Sef Fa'agase and Sam Talakai, loose forwards Michael Gunn and Adam Korczyk as well as hooker Andrew Ready all starred with inaugural NRC Champions Brisbane City and have signed multi-year deals with the St George Queensland Reds.
Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, an outside back by trade, impressed for Queensland Country in the 2014 NRC and has agreed a two-year contract with the Reds.
Reds Head Coach Richard Graham said: “The signing of Sef (Fa'agase), Michael (Gunn), Adam (Korczyk) and Andrew (Ready) demonstrates how strongly we value the development of Queensland youngsters through our pathway program.
“This season alone all four have made their debuts, along with 11 other players, and their signings will see them continue to develop here at Ballymore. It is a huge show of faith to our Rugby program and their desire to see Queensland Rugby continue to be strong.
“While Sam (Talakai) and JJ (Taulagi) aren’t originally from our development pathways, they came to Ballymore with a strong desire to further develop their talent and we have made clear over the past 18 months we are willing to look outside Queensland where we need to.
“Sam’s introduction through the successful NRC Brisbane City team led to his Elite Development contract. Of his eight Super Rugby caps, he has been our starting tighthead in five of them and through his improving performances in Super Rugby this year he has earned the further upgrade to be a member of the main Reds squad.
“This is the second year of JJ’s original deal. He was outstanding in the NRC for Queensland Country and carried that form into the pre-season trials. Unfortunately a knee injury has ruled him out of most of the 2015 Super season but I feel he has demonstrated some growth and we believe he will contribute strongly over the next two seasons.”
Meanwhile, the RaboDirect Rebels have extended the contract of exciting back Sefanaia Naivalu for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
The 23-year-old played five games for a strong Melbourne Rising outfit in last year’s NRC.
General Manager, Pathways and Performance at the Australian Rugby Union, Ben Whitaker, said: “This is a fantastic endorsement for the pathways that Australian Rugby and the state unions are implementing.
“The early signs are really positive around the impact the NRC is having on exposing and promoting talent as made evident by the seven players signing and playing Super Rugby in 2015 and 2016.”
The 2015 National Rugby Championship is set to kick off on Thursday 20 August with the season draw to be released in May.