Under 20’s Competition Gets A Bad Wrap For No Good Reason

The NRL’s National Youth Competition for Under 20’s player get a lot of critics, and I’m not really sure why.

I’ve always taken the opinion that, I don’t care what the results are in junior football, the main thing is that the kids are playing Rugby League and having a bit of fun. That should be the sole reason for playing football for younger players, and I think as a sport we lose sight of that sometimes.

When it comes to the NYC, the focus is a little different.

Basically the idea is that young get the best junior players at every club and introduced them to the professional environment. You give them a taste of the on and off field standards that they will be faced with if they ever take the step up to playing at NRL level. They get professional coaching, they get taught how to deal with the media, correct training methods…it is basically a stepping stone between park football and the NRL which they really need.

A lot of people look at the scorelines in the NYC and think its a disaster. They can’t see how big scorelines help teach these youngsters how to be ready for the NRL. Plenty of media commentators want to scrap the NYC for this very reason. They are missing the point.

If you look at the NRL over the last few years, and the way NYC players have been called up to play first grade, you can see the end results are fantastic.

NYC players come into the NRL these days and, unlike in the past, they are physically ready to take the step up. The days or a skinny, scrawny kid making his first grade debut are long gone. Now, when a kid gets his first start in the NRL, a lot of the time they are as physically ready to compete at that level as a fully seasoned NRL player.

Because of the coaching they have received, we are no longer seeing kids step up into first grade level and just look completely out of their depth. Because NRL clubs coach the same style of play between their NRL and NYC teams, young players are coming straight into first grade, they know what role in the side, they are comfortable with the style of play the team is using and they are slotting seamlessly into first grade teams.

Are we seeing massive scorelines in the NRL because of the influx of NYC players? No. Are we seeing youngsters come into the NRL from the NYC who are poor defensive players and have picked up bad habit from the NYC? Not at all.

If anything the NYC is producing players that are better defenders then we have ever seen in the past from a collective group of youngsters that have stepped up to the next level of top grade football.

The NRL is purely a development league, and should always be considered as a development league. It is a place where players can learn the ropes, make mistakes, learn the demands of the game and be taught what their role is in a game of football.

One of the big complaints I hear all the time about junior Rugby League is that many coaches treat it far too seriously. They over coach, they handcuff the kids playing the game, they don’t let them just go out there, have fun and throw the footy around. This argument has been used by some mainstream commentators as a reason why the game produces athletes and not footballers any more.

Well take a look at the NYC. Isn’t it a good idea to have a youth competition where young players are allowed the throw the footy around. To find out what works in attack, what doesn’t? To be able to make mistakes and know that everything isn’t on the line, they can fearlessly go out and try a few things and see if they work for them.

If you look at the kids coming into the NRL from the NYC, they are doing amazing things that youngsters in the past would have never considered doing for the fear that they would be drop from first grade, never to return again. Instead, the NYC players step up to the NRL full of confidence, they have experience, they have tested their own limits against a good quality of opposition. They might only get called on a few times a game to make a play, but when that call comes, they are ready to not only show the ability of a first grader, but to also do spectacular things.

People are looking at the results of the NYC, and not the results of the players that are actually coming out of the NYC. That is the real problem.

As a development league and a stepping stone between junior football and the NRL, the NYC has been a spectacular success, even if it doesn’t sooth the souls of old men that went to see kids battling it out in dour contests with no tries scored.

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