By GREG WHITE
MID North Coast Zone's premier schoolboy rugby competition kicks off tonight at Rugby Park, Sawtell, when eight district high schools chase glory in the northern conference of the Office Data Systems (ODS) Rugby 10's.
"This will be the fourth season the competition has been decided and every year it gets stronger," zone executive officer Des Hoy said. "We've already produced a Super 14 player in AJ Gilbert, several who've been signed to the top NRL and Rugby clubs and it won't surprise me if we unearth more spectacular talent over the next few weeks."
Each high school is invited to nominate teams in three grades comprising opens, years 9-10 and years 7-8.
Seven nominations are confirmed for the feature open competition with Dorrigo expected to become the eighth participant when they finalise their squad tonight.
"While the tournament promotes the sport of Rugby, we acknowledge a few of the lads may go back to other codes after it's completion," Hoy said.
"But at their age, it doesn't matter if they prefer soccer, league, AFL or whatever ... what it does is open them up to the options they have in sport and let's face it, rugby union is an excellent way to build a career and seek opportunities."
In addition to the Coffs Harbour conference, rounds will coincide for high schools in the Hastings-Macleay and Manning-Great Lakes regions over the next four weeks leading up to a finals showdown.
"The top four teams in each grade meet in Port Macquarie on 1st May where the players receive medallions while a grand prize of a $5000 copier will be presented by sponsors ODS to the winning school," Hoy said.
Play starts at 4.30pm with four fields at Rugby Park to be used.