The graduates keep coming
I witnessed two things this week that further emphasised to me the important role the Intrust Super Cup plays on a weekly basis in the development of our most promising talent.
On Monday night Josh Chudleigh made his NRL debut for the North Queensland Cowboys and did so in the manner that showed he wasn't thrust into the big time before he was ready.
His try early in the second half against the Raiders showed all the hallmarks of a young player with a belief in his ability gleaned from a solid grounding playing against men for the Mackay Cutters for the past 18 months.
It was a brilliant individual effort that turned the momentum of the game towards a Cowboys team bereft of a half dozen of their biggest stars and provided another indication that a rugby league apprenticeship is not fully complete until a player has spent a good portion of time in either of the state competitions.
Chudleigh is back playing with Mackay against Ipswich this weekend and will carry himself in a different way now that he has experienced first grade and gained the confidence to know he is on the right track to plenty more games in future.
Slowly does it
I believe the restraint that Cowboys coach Paul Green has showed in filtering the young players at the club into the first grade team will set up the club for sustained success well into the future.
It would have been tempting given his potential to find a place for Coen Hess somewhere in the 17 this season but Green seems determined to make any future superstars well-rounded footballers before introducing them to the NRL.
Still a month away from his 20th birthday Hess has spent time with Mackay and the Northern Pride in the past two seasons and like Chudleigh was a standout when he got the call-up for the Cowboys against Canberra on Monday night.
Ahead of the Under 20s Origin game on Wednesday night I also spoke to Brodie Croft this week, an 18-year-old contracted to the Storm who has split his time between the Storm 20s and Easts Tigers this season.
Again named at halfback for the Tigers' all-important clash with Souths Logan on Sunday (July 17), Croft said that his preparation for the NRL debut he experienced against the Dragons a month ago was all the better for his time in the Intrust Super Cup.
He described the speed of the Under 20s competition, the toughness of the Intrust Super Cup and how the NRL was the combination of both of those and then ramped up a number of levels again.
Young guns firing
Fresh off his man-of-the-match performance for the NSW 20s on Wednesday night Curtis Scott will line up for Sunshine Coast against Norths while former Under 20s star Jahrome Hughes has made his NRL debut this year and signed a two-year deal with the Storm after starring for the Blackhawks this season.
The Titans are testing Oshae Tuiasau and Kurt Bernard's first-grade credentials by playing them with Tweed Heads and Marion Seve's prospects of an NRL call-up are getting closer and closer with his strong displays for Souths Logan.
And it's not just Queensland-based clubs who are fostering productive nurseries with the PNG Hunters unearthing another future NRL star this year in Justin Olam, who recently signed a two-year deal to play with the Storm from next season after just half a season in the Intrust Super Cup.
Young players are now getting the message that the path to the NRL is not through the Under 20s competition but by excelling in the respective state leagues and the quicker we can make that distinction the better off they will be not only as footballers but as young men.
A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland Correspondent for NRL.com.