National Youth Competition to be scrapped as officials go back to the drawing board
The National Youth Competition is set to be scrapped as part of a massive overhaul of the pathways to NRL progression.
The under-20s competition was ushered in with much fanfare in 2008, billed as the chance to showcase the best young talent in the game.
But the Holden Cup will cease to exist when the current broadcast deal concludes at the end of 2017 and replaced by age-based competitions aligned with NSW and Queensland Cup teams.
The ARLC has conducted extensive research on the current pathways to the elite level and there is a belief the NYC isn’t serving as the best possible transition from elite junior to first grader.
It’s understood the new state-based competitions would feature under-18s and under-20s age groups, which would then feed talent through to the current open-age NSW and Queensland Cup competitions.
The plan is for the champion team from each state to play off on grand final day, as will be the case when the VB Cup and Intrust Super Cup winners will for the first time in October.
“That is certainly something we’ll look at as part of the next broadcast rights agreement,” an NRL spokesperson said.
One of the problems plaguing the current NYC tournament is the exorbitant running costs.
This round alone, six U20s teams – the Bulldogs, Tigers, Roosters, Eels, Raiders and Storm – will travel interstate, while the Sharks head across the Tasman to take on the Warriors.
The travel and accommodation costs are a huge impost to clubs, many which are already struggling financially.
Under the new system, there will be huge savings almost all games will be played along state lines.
The overhaul will also address concerns that many talented youngsters were leaving the game if they didn’t transition straight from NYC to the NRL.
Another concern about the current system is that the best young players aren’t on show in the under-20s anyways, as those poised to get a call up to first grade were being blooded against seasoned players in the NSW Cup to prepare them for the rigours of the big time.
Even before the NYC was introduced, there were concerns that it wouldn’t serve its purpose.
Back in 2007, Des Hasler predicted it would be a “glorified SG Ball competition”, with fellow coaches Wayne Bennett, Neil Henry and Ivan Cleary outspoken about their preference for blooding their gun juniors in the open-age competitions.
Holden’s sponsorship, along with broadcast commitments, mean there can be no changes for another two-and-a-half years.
However, the ARLC believe the changes will further boost the profile of the state-based competitions while still giving broadcasters an attractive television product.
NYC initiatives, such as the ‘no work, no study, no play’ edict, are likely to remain to ensure juniors have post-football careers to fall back on.
One of the challenges for the League is than not every NRL club has its own NSW or Queensland Cup affiliate. Melbourne and Cronulla, for instance, both provide players for the Sharks’ feeder club side.
However, that situation could soon change as Cronulla are in negotiations to partner with Newtown from next season.
The Jets’ nine-year association with the Roosters will soon come to an end after the premiers opted to link with Wyong to give them a crack at the talent on the Central Coast.
Cronulla CEO Steve Noyce has a good relationship with Jets officials from his time at the Roosters and there is a possibility a Sharks-Jets association could be formalised by the end of the week.