Mike Castle instructs Jacob Ford, 10, in the art of tackling at his football clinic at Advocate Park.
Mike Castle instructs Jacob Ford, 10, in the art of tackling at his football clinic at Advocate Park. Rob Wright

ARL tackles schools

LOCAL high schools are likely to get their own regular regional rugby league competition from next year.

Plans to get one up and running have been made before, but for various reasons, always managed to hit some final hurdle.

But the Australian Rugby League’s newly-appointed national development officer, Mike Castle, has made rapid progress on a scheme and doesn’t doubt its feasibility.

“For starters, it’s no problem if not every school takes part in the initial stages, as I believe with the right programming and publicity, we can get it off the ground with just three or four teams and build it up bit-by-bit in future years,” he said.

Schoolboy football in other regions involving both state and independent schools has been massively successful, particularly where there’s historic rivalry between participants.

Inter-school leagues in North Queensland draw thousands off spectators while closer to home, The Daily Examiner Shield in the Clarence Valley has more than half-a-century of tradition behind it.

These competitions are generally so prestigious they are played at major venues out of school hours and attract massive local publicity.

“Part of the deal is getting the term programs to fit together with statewide competitions integrated with a domestic competition,” Castle said.

“One of the past drawbacks is that schools might get knocked out early from something like the CRL Cup and they find not many opportunities are left to get a game.

“Orara and Jetty may get as few as two or three matches in a year, which won’t help build a reputation, but this idea would give them a ready-made activity.”

Castle believes a school like Toormina High, with a track record of extraordinary success during the 1980s and ’90s, would soon return to those glory years with a little encouragement.

“I’m keen to spread the prizes around as well with vouchers for equipment given to schools at various levels as incentive to participate,” he said.

“A major prize to the overall winner would be nice if we can find a sponsor, but I think there’s a lot to be said for everybody getting something of value from this.”

Under the proposal, points would be allocated for simply arranging a fixture or travelling to another school to play so that less-developed rugby league schools would be able to continue improving while remaining competitive.

Initially the competition would be for the open age group and it’s hoped that by having the senior students playing at school, it will increase interest in the sport within the school.

Schools can arrange as many or as few games as they like as there are no set fixtures.

Even if the school played only four games through terms one and two, they would still be eligible for an award.

Schools can decide whether they play 13, 10 or seven-a-side, depending on how many players they have available.

“Instead of having ‘friendly’ fixtures the students will feel they are striving for something,” Castle said.

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