Teams from 24 centres across Australia - from Cairns to Perth - have been selected to compete in the inaugural Junior Gold Cup, a national youth championships for Under 15 and Under 17 boys culminating in finals in April next year.
More than 3,000 boys participated in trials throughout October and November, with local Rugby centres across Australia selecting 60 players, 30 for each of their representative U15 and U17 teams.
While the Junior Gold Program has existed since 2009 as a development opportunity, this is the first time the program will be held as an official championship showcasing the country’s top young Rugby talent.
Junior Gold Cup Manager, Hugh Carpenter, said the championship is designed to deliver the future stars of Australian Rugby.
“As part of a player’s long term development, the Junior Gold Cup will provide a solid pathway to assist our talented players in their Rugby careers,” said Carpenter.
“The competition will give kids across the country access to high quality Rugby competition and development opportunities.
“This will provide a consistent approach for players who aspire to play professional Rugby in the future.”
The Junior Gold Cup divides the U15 and U17 teams into a Northern and Southern Conference. The event will be played in a round robin format with each Conference split into two pools of six teams.
The Northern Conference Final, between the winner of pools C and D, and the Southern Conference Final, between the winners of pools A and B, will take place on Sunday 30 March, while the overall winners of the Conference Finals will compete for the Junior Gold Cup on Saturday 5 April, coinciding with the Queensland Reds versus Western Force Super Rugby match in Brisbane.
The Junior Gold Cup aims to incentivise local Rugby centres to independently source sponsorship, with funds to be matched ‘dollar-for-dollar’ by Australian Rugby Union up to a value of $10,000.
General Manager of Development Pathways, Ben Whitaker, said this initiative creates a sustainable financial model for the inaugural tournament to establish itself and continue to grow into the future.
“Many centres have achieved this goal with a concerted effort to source funding from local councils,” said Whitaker.
“The critical role volunteers and local centres play in supporting local talent to play at the national level is very impressive. We seek to provide quality coach, administrator and match official exposure through this championship, as well as providing quality exposure for Australia’s best young Rugby talent.”
The Junior Gold Cup has been established in addition to existing club and school programs, allowing boys from all sporting backgrounds Junior Gold Cup.
“This new competition is the first of its kind for Australian Rugby. I’m excited to see the level of enthusiasm shown by the number of kids that have attended trials and the many volunteers helping us across the country,” Whitaker said.
Teams in each of the 24 Rugby centres began training at the start of November with the first game of the Junior Gold Cup championship set to kick off in Brisbane on Friday 14 February between Brisbane Yellow and Gold Coast as a curtain-raiser to the trial match between the Queensland Reds and Melbourne Rebels at Ballymore.