Phil Gould doesn’t like the prominence that the Under 20’s or National Youth Competition gets within Rugby League these days. He has talked about it for years!
He feels as though too much emphasis is played on the NYC and that the traditional reserve grade competitions in the NSW Cup and QLD Cup don’t get the attention they deserve. He has written about players in this lower level of the game being upset about the attention younger players in the NYC get and he feels as though we need to look at the pathways for players and how they are developed in Australia.
Now forgive me for not giving a damn about the hurt feelings of a bunch of reserve grade players who want to play at NRL stadiums in front rather than in suburban parks. The fact of the matter is that if people wanted to watch NSW and QLD Cup, they would, and they typically don’t.
The great thing about the NRL is that there are many different pathways into the competition.
Sure a lot of players come up through the traditional junior Rugby League ranks at clubs, that leads into the NYC, and then if they are good enough they get a run in the NRL. That isn’t the only way we see players come into the competition though.
All the time we are seeing players come into the league at an older age from the NSW and QLD Cup competitions. We see players come into the league from overseas. At the end of the day, if you are good enough to play in the NRL, you’re probably going to end up playing in the NRL, no matter where it is you are playing your football.
So why focus on reducing the prominence that the National Youth Competition receives?
This seems to be an argument based on feelings rather than facts. By any measure the NYC has been an incredible success. No only has it produced some great players who have stepped into the NRL and been great players there from their first game, but it is a level of football fans have shown they want to see. The NYC out rates many other sports on Fox Sports and it is a pretty good level of competition that has provided the NRL with a hell of a lot of content that it can sell to broadcasters.
People liked to see possible players of the future in the NYC. They like watching a game and seeing a youngster catch their eye…and then following that player through to his first grade debut. It is a really easy thing to sell, come and watch the players of tomorrow, today.
Reserve grade competitions like the NSW and QLD Cup competitions are good competitions. You can see some good footy being played when you watch them. It is a different level of the game though. When you watch reserve grade competitions, you can see the fringe first grade players, the players that are just developing at a later age, but you also see the players who you know ill go no higher than reserve grade level. The ones that will never play in the NRL.
In life, everyone can’t be a star. I know it isn’t the type of thing people are supposed to say these days, but it is the truth. The reason clubs have put so much emphasis on the National Youth Competition is because at that level of football, the chances are every team has one or two players that one day might end up being a star. It is very rare that you can say the same thing about the NSW and QLD Cup competitions.
The most valuable players in Rugby League these days are the youngsters that are still on a junior contract but who are playing like stars in the NRL. Think of Josh Reynolds right now. He is playing at a level that has many people pushing for him to play State Of Origin football this season. Despite that, he is still playing on a lower level contract. He has yet to have his first big pay day in the NRL, that will come next season. Until then, he is one of those super valuable players that does not cost much against the teams salary cap, but who gives you the performance on the field of a player earning the money of a star player.
Players like him are the reason that fans want to watch the NYC over the NSW or QLD Cup competitions. He is the reason that NRL clubs put some much time and effort into their NYC teams. You can be sure that if NRL clubs felt like there was a better way to develop star players for their first grade team, they would be spending all their time and effort on that instead.
We have seen some good players come into the NRL from the NSW and QLD Cup competitions. It is a much needed level of the game that does the job it is meant to do. However, this idea that it can be artificially promoted to a higher level than it is at now is just misguided. I’m not really sure why it is an agenda that is being pushed, but the fact is that these competitions were pushed aside in favour of showing the National Youth Competition for a good reason.
No matter what the pyramid structure of the game looks like, people want to see the stars of the future before they watch first grade. They don’t want to see the guys who are old enough to have had their chance, and who for the most part simply weren’t good enough to make it. When it is a choice between watching the best young Rugby League players in the world, of the second best group of Rugby League players in the world…I know which one I would rather watch.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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