Elliott Richardson – The NYC is a Failed Experiment

Whilst many people would disagree with me I am of the firm opinion that the Under 20′s or the National Youth Competition/Holden Cup has not done the job it was intended for.

The major idea of this competition was to have an elite avenue for young rugby league players to progress into the NRL by playing against people their own age. That is where it falls apart.

The NRL is the best and most competitive rugby league competition in the world. It has seen players from the age of 16 up to the age of 40 play in the first grade competition.

For 100 years the premier rugby league competition, whether it was the NSWRL, ARL or NRL operated with a three tier system. Jersey Flegg (Under 23′s), Reserve Grade/NSW Cup and First Grade.

The premise was to build the players into first grade. Under23′s allowed them to play against guys roughly their own age but who may have more size as due to the age difference allowed.

Reserve Grade gave the opportunity for fringe first graders to show their worth, injured first graders to gain match fitness and the young players to test themselves against guys much bigger, stronger and experienced than them.

First grade was the benchmark by which all were measured. Now we have today’s system. It relegates NSW Cup to park football with the NYC taking position as the NRL curtain-raiser.

The major issue with the NYC is that it doesn’t prepare the players for the NRL properly. When it was first introduced you’d see players picked directly from NYC, struggle and then get dropped. Then they’d play NSW Cup and force their way back in.

Anyone who has watched the NYC can tell you that there is very little focus on defence. Contrastly, the NRL is built on defence. NSW Cup, whilst not as intense as the NRL, still focuses on a team’s defensive ability.

We have seen over the past few years in the NRL, that teams can stage huge comebacks and score points at an unbelievable rate and that is where I believe the NYC is having its impact.

The young players simply don’t have the mental aptitude to apply themselves for 80 minutes. When you look at teams like Melbourne, Souths, the Roosters and Dogs, they have limited numbers of NYC players in first grade and it shows.

They apply themselves for 80 minutes and can grind out a win. Now look at Parramatta. They have a team made up majorly of NYC players and they’re lucky to concentrate for 20 minutes.

The old reserve grade competition allowed young players to play against seasoned veterans of the game who were either on their way down or returning from injury. The NYC doesn’t allow that.

When Andrew Johns was playing for Newcastle in reserve grade he faced a Manly side that featured Cliff Lyons. Lyons tore Newcastle to shreds in that game and gave one of the greatest halfbacks of all time a footballing lesson.

That game taught Johns how far he had to go to become a regular first grader and what it meant to play in the NRL. These days coaches, before promoting an NYC player, they will play them in the NSW Cup to see how they perform against bigger, more experienced players.

If this is now the case then why does the NYC still exist? If this supposedly elite competition is now being ranked behind NSW Cup by the NRL coaches then it has surely failed as a developmental competition.

I am a Parramatta supporter and I have quite clearly seen the difference between NRL players and NYC players. Parramatta’s wingers are all graduates of the NYC system. Their defensive reads and positioning are terrible. They constantly get turned inside out by their opposites.

To paraphrase Phil Gould “The game seems to have a view of if it’s not broken then fix it until it is.” The Jersey-Flegg, Reserve Grade, First Grade system worked for 100 seasons. Why change it? In my opinion it’s a failed experiment and it needs to go for the good of the game.

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