Bulldogs seek to re-establish links with Coffs Harbour

 

THE Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have this week moved to sign a deal with Country Rugby League that would bring benefits to Mid and North Coast rugby league clubs.

The memorandum of understanding will see junior players on the coast given direct contact with the NRL club, so their talent can be fostered before they come of grade.

The return on the club's partnership with the CRL would also see administration advice and support from a leading NRL franchise given to coastal competitions like Group 2 and Group 3 in 'future proofing' the country game.

Bulldogs look at SCU facilities, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs performance manager and former player Andy Patmore, club chief executive Andrew Hill, Country Rugby League operations manager Burt Lowry and club great and recruitment manager Mark Hughes.
Bulldogs look at SCU facilities, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs performance manager and former player Andy Patmore, club chief executive Andrew Hill, Country Rugby League operations manager Burt Lowry and club great and recruitment manager Mark Hughes. Trevor Veale

Looking to restore the glory days of the NRL's 'family club', Bulldogs Chief Executive Officer Andrew Hill said the club prospered when it invested in grass-roots country connections.

"It's a wonderful opportunity that Country Rugby League have commenced. Certainly when our club was the strongest it was around looking after juniors and bringing up players through a whole pathways program," Mr Hill said.

The Canterbury Bulldogs have signed an agreement with the CRL on the North Coast.
The Canterbury Bulldogs have signed an agreement with the CRL on the North Coast. Bulldogs

"At the Bulldogs we have gone away from that the last five or six years and this is a wonderful opportunity to really re-establish what we are really good at.

"We are a big brand, we are a big club and we are in a financial position where not only do we have the ability to look after our own backyard, but I think we have the ability to look after the growth of the game.

"This is all part of a plan to future proof the game.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill. Trevor Veale

Arriving in Coffs Harbour on Wednesday afternoon, Bulldogs Chief Executive Andrew Hill and club greats and current recruitment office Mark Hughes and pathways performance manager Andy Patmore toured training facilities at the Coffs Harbour Southern Cross University campus.

The MOU starting in November will see associations formed with local clubs and the Bulldogs' Andrew Johns Cup Under 16s and Laurie Daley Cup Under 18s teams so coastal juniors are given an opportunity to develop their skills locally while having pathways to the NRL.

"So yes this is about perhaps providing opportunities for young boys and young girls to make their way down to Sydney and follow an aspiration of representing themselves in the NRL, but of course this is broader that that its about a community engagement piece this is about us lending a hand to improve the game both administratively and on the field," Hill said.

Bulldogs captain Josh Jackson hails from the bush.
Bulldogs captain Josh Jackson hails from the bush.

Potentially, this partnership with Country Rugby League focussed on the Mid and North coasts, could mean local footballers have a direct line to the one NRL club.

Currently the coast's star products, turned NRL stars, the likes of Bowraville's Greg Inglis (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Kempsey's James Roberts (Brisbane Broncos), Taree's Latrell Mitchell (Sydney Roosters), Sawtell's Jarrod Wallace (Gold Coast Titans) and Grafton's Anthony Don (Gold Coast Titans) are spread across a range of clubs having entered a host of different feeder systems.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldog Aiden Tolman hails from Kempsey.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldog Aiden Tolman hails from Kempsey. PAUL MILLER

"When this club is at its best we have a strong junior league, we provide great opportunities for our own but we also identify players to come into the system and work their way through," Hill said.

"Of course our own captain Josh Jackson is a bushy, Aiden Tolman is from this broader region as well, there's plenty of examples of the success this club has had in identifying regional New South Wales talent."

Coffs Harbour is of course synonymous with a dark chapter for the Bulldogs club, after an off-field scandal in 2004 tainted the game, but for one of the NRL's favourite clubs a new era and a new association now beckons for local league and the city.



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