RUGBY league in Queensland is beginning to reap the benefits of an innovative junior program for outback players.
Over the past three years, the QRL Juniors Advisory Committee has been driving the NRL Outback Shield, a unique program which brings teams together in the Under 14 and Under 16 age groups.
Southern and Northern teams are formed to take part in the NRL Outback Shield. Players are then eligible for selection in the Outback sides to play at the Glyn Rees City/Country Cultural Exchange.
The junior talent comes from areas including Charleville, Mitchell, Cunnamulla, Mt Isa, Doomadgee, Cloncurry, Hughenden and Richmond.
The travel for these boys is mind blowing, QRL Juniors Advisory Committee chair Geoff Orman said.
Some of them will travel 15 hours in a bus to get to the centre where we play the Outback Carnival and to get to the Sunshine Coast (for the annual Glyn Rees City/Country Cultural Exchange) it can be as long as 30 hours.
However, when they get off the bus and put their gear on and play, there is a big smile on their face and all they can say is thanks for giving me an opportunity to play and make these teams."
The Advisory Committees work isnt over when the full-time whistle brings a close to a carnival.
Orman and his dedicated team continue to monitor the progress of participants, long after the team buses have safely delivered the players home.
We have been following these players to see what happens to them and where they go with their football, he revealed.
A lot of them have gone onto play further representative football. It is also shows that by providing an opportunity and a lead, they have a pathway that enables them to go onto play at different levels of football to improve their game and skill level.
Coen Hess is one player reaping the rewards from the pathways in place.
Coen played in the 2012 Outback carnival and this year he went on to play for the Stingers Mal Meninga Cup team.
He also made the Queensland Under 18 Schoolboys team and was the most valuable player at the National Schoolboys titles.
Orman said it was no longer such a daunting task for players who went off to State Schoolboy Championships for the first time due to their earlier participation in the Outback Shield and the City/Country matches as 14-year-olds.
* Players who have reached higher honours after playing in the Outback Junior Carnival, or for Queensland Outback teams:
Joredn Smith - 2012 North West Invitation 15s Schoolboys
Daniel Bruce - 2012 South West 15s Schoolboys
Kelvin Lui - 2012 QLD Indigenous Under 16s
Coen Hess - 2012 QLD Under 16s
2012 - Longreach
Caleb Collins-Maunder - 2013 South West 15s Schoolboys
Schakarne Aitkens - 2013 North West Invitation 15s Schoolboys
Tristan Toby - 2013 North West Invitation 15s Schoolboys
Braeden Carolan - 2013 North West Invitation 15s Schoolboys
Shaun Booth - 2013 North West Invitation 15s Schoolboys
Sam Pattison - 2013 North West Invitation 15s Schoolboys
Adam Hughes - 2013 North West Invitation 15s Schoolboys
Peter Blutcher - 2013 North West Invitation 15s Schoolboys
Gavin Crisp - 2013 North West Invitation 15s Schoolboys
Bailey Davies - 2013 North West Invitation 15s Schoolboys
Denzil Hill - 2013 North West Invitation 15s Schoolboys
Joshua Maloney - 2013 CQ Capras Mal Meninga 18s Squad
2013 - Barcaldine
Both Shaun Booth and Gavin Crisp have been selected in the NQ Young Guns 15 Murri team to compete at the 2013 Queensland Murri Carnival at Ipswich from September 26-30.