Rising stars chase league careers
CAREER advancement was on the minds of a group of young rugby league players at the weekend as they continued their development in a bid to secure a start with an NRL club.
Country Rugby League's North Coast Academy convened at Port Macquarie's Stuart Park sporting complex and 43 players added some polish to their portfolios.
Regional development manager Graham Boland said the camp brought together an exciting mix of incredibly talented 17 and 18-year-olds.
“We had 12 players completing their second year and part of their continuing job will be to act as guides for the younger arrivals,” he said.
“The second group of 31 players has been selected from two trials and come out of under-16 teams from both Groups 2 and 3.
“During the camp and future exercises these young blokes undertake a series of lectures and skills sessions encompassing all facets of the game to allow them to become a more informed player.”
The North Coast Academy's list of graduates into the NRL has been impressive.
Gold Coast Titans flyer Kevin Gordon (Sawtell Panthers) and Bulldogs centre Jamal Idris (Forster-Tuncurry Hawks) are among those to participate in the program in recent years.
Aiden Tolman and Albert Kelly (Macleay Valley Mustangs), Shaun Fensom (Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo Magpies), Ben Harris (Old Bar Pirates), Michael Spence (Coffs Harbour Comets), Greg Nichols (Nambucca Heads Roosters), Nathan Smith (Macksville Sea Eagles), Jacob Selmes and Jeremy Latimore (Port Macquarie Sharks) also have gone through the Academy program before furthering their careers at the top level.
Traditional league nurseries at Sawtell, Macksville-Bowraville and Kempsey were well represented at the weekend but Boland said he was pleased to see an increase in numbers from Woolgoolga Seahorses, Orara Valley Axemen and Coffs Harbour Comets after several years of indifferent success.
“With Orara winning their first under-18 premiership this season and the upward spiral at Coffs and Woolgoolga, it shows the development work done by the clubs is bearing fruit,” he said.
Meanwhile, an era in junior league ended yesterday when Stephen Spear stood down as president of Group 2 Beautizone.
After eight years in the top job, Spear said it was time for another face in the chair but pledged to remain involved at both levels of the local game.