Melbourne Rebels & Rising combination of Nic Stirzaker and Jack Debreczeni are a part of the next generation of players.
In its second year of operation, the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC) has shaped up to be a valuable Rugby pathway for many Australian players, featuring Qantas Wallaby players and Super Rugby stars.
Four teams from NSW, two from Queensland and one each from the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Western Australia make up the nine-team competition – the Sydney Stars, Greater Sydney Rams, NSW Country Eagles, Macquarie University North Harbour Rays, Brisbane City, Queensland Country, the University of Canberra Vikings, Melbourne Rising and Perth Spirit.
More than half of the players who took the field during the inaugural competition in 2014 did not have a Super Rugby contract, a stat which quickly came to the attention of the Australian provincial clubs looking to boost their Super Rugby lineups.
Last year’s champions, Brisbane City, saw a host of its players rewarded for their performances with multi-year contracts with the St.George Queensland Reds. Forwards Sef Fa’agase, Sam Talakai, Michael Gunn, Adam Korczyk and Andrew Ready were some of the NRC stars to sign new contracts.
Queensland Country’s agile outside back Jamie-Jerry Taulagi also impressed in the tournament and was rewarded with a two year contract with the Reds.
Former Australian U20’s flyhalf Jake McIntyre was one of the best on field in Brisbane City’s championship winning run and made his debut for the Queensland Reds in their round 14 win over the RaboDirect Rebels in front of a packed home crowd at Suncorp Stadium. The young playmaker brought energy to the Reds lineup and scored a scintillating second half try that would help the team gain their first lead in a 46-29 comeback win.
The RaboDirect Melbourne Rebels saw high potential in the competition as well, signing Melbourne Rising flyer Sefanaia Naivalu, who scored two first half tries in the match against the Reds, to a two year contract. The Fijian born scoring machine became the first Victorian club Rugby player in history to sign a contract with the provincial franchise.
Future Rugby stars could also continue their development pathway to Super Rugby and the Wallabies. Along with Michael Gunn and Adam Korczyk in the Australian U20’s squad, Matt Sandell, James Tuttle, Campbell Magnay and Jonah Placid were members of an NRC team.
Previously injured and fringe Wallaby players looking to gain selection into the national squad also seized the opportunity of playing in the competition, with players Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Christian Leali’ifano and Henry Speight all making appearances in the NRC.
The Australian Rugby Union’s General Manager of Pathways and Performance, Ben Whitaker, highlighted the positive growth of the NRC in its second year.
“The Buildcorp National Rugby Championship presents a unique opportunity for non-Super Rugby contracted players, future stars of Australian Rugby and Wallaby players returning from injury to compete at the highest level in front of a national audience.
“Many of the NRC teams are linked closely with the Australian Super Rugby clubs and local clubs, and this partnership gives every player a stronger chance of securing a playing contract and boosting their prospects of being selected in representative teams.”
In this year’s championship, teams will have more time to build their squad with developing and established players for their run at the Buildcorp NRC trophy.
“With a greater lead time for the competition this year we’re looking forward to all nine clubs fielding more competitive outfits. The law variations have also allowed for more entertaining games and it will be very exciting to watch how the teams have adapted.”
The 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship is set to kick off on the 20th of August later this year.