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By ARU High Performance Unit, ARU Media Unit
On the same weekend that the Wallabies played their epic semi-final showdown against New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup, the ARU's High Performance Unit sought to uncover the next generation of Wallabies by conducting its annual Junior Gold U15 High Performance Camp in Sydney.
The ARU invited 98 players in the U15 age group from across Australia into a 2 1/2 day camp. Many players selected for the camp had been identified through important junior club and representative pathways as well as various schoolboy competitions.
Full time High Performance coaches, talent scouts and external consultants were on hand to present on and off field sessions to the group, providing an insight into the standards and expectations required to become a Rugby player at the highest level.
Whilst the players underwent important on field athletic testing, skill practice sessions and trial games; the off field education component of the camp is viewed just as important in the development of the young players. Nutrition, flexibility, injury management and performance analysis education sessions kept the players active away from the rugby field. One of the largest education sessions presented at the Junior Gold Camp is the 'Lifeskills' program, designed to enhance the young players' understanding of their personal brand and the impact a positive brand has on the individual and on the player's family, friends, team and sport. The 'Lifeskills' program creates an appreciation that a player's off field learning and growth is directly linked to their on field success.
Players will also be provided valuable learning through the Illicit Drugs in Sport Education program presentation. The ARU have partnered with the Federal Government to educate young players on the effects of illicit drugs. The Illicit Drugs in Sport Education program partners the ARU in delivering the U15 High Performance Camp providing young players with important information to make positive decisions in their life away from the rugby field.
"We brought players into the camp from Western Australia, Victoria, regional NSW, regional QLD, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and the Northern Territory providing genuine national coverage explained national program coordinator Ben Whitaker.
"Our Pathway to Gold program now extends into every state and territory in Australia and we have recently seen players from South Australia and Tasmania graduate to state and national honours through various national talent development programs.
The U15 High Performance Camp is the start of a long journey for these young players to become the best players and young men they can be. No doubt some will graduate over the years to become SuperRugby and even Wallaby level players - importantly all attending players will appreciate that hard work, resilience, personal development and enjoyment are significant factors in becoming the best they can be and achieving through Rugby and life".
The camp represents an initial program within the ARU's Pathway to Gold program - a national long term talent development system to develop and select Australia's best up and coming talent for future representation at the highest level.
The program, instigated after the 2003 World Cup staged in Australia has assisted in the graduation of players such as David Pocock, Will Genia, Ben McCalman, Pat McCabe, James Slipper and James O'Connor from school aged prospects to current World Cup Wallaby stars.
The 2011 Junior Gold U15 High Performance Camp supported by the Illicit Drugs in Sport Education program was conducted 14-16th October at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Sydney.