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QRL commits to statewide footprint as key changes unveiled

The Queensland Rugby League will maintain its statewide footprint in 2021 following an extensive strategic review to support and enhance player development and pathways across Queensland.

A desire to increase the number of Queensland-eligible players, coaches and referees in national men’s and women’s competitions was central to the review process, which comes during a challenging period for many sports affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

QRL managing director Robert Moore said the game was in a healthy position to move forward and set itself up for the future after lengthy consultation with stakeholders across the code.

“The objectives of the review were to clarify roles and responsibilities of groups that presently organise and deliver activity to participants aged 13 to 18,” Moore said.

“We’ve also focused on the current climate, and the need to identify cost-effective approaches, while also removing duplication where possible.

“This is about raising the bar in terms of support for players, referees and coaches.”

Key outcomes include the Intrust Super and women’s BHP Premiership continuing in a statewide format with one underpinning age group.

  • The Intrust Super Cup will now be played over 19 rounds, while the Hastings Deering Colts will be contested over 16 rounds and will cater for under 21 players following a decision to extend the age of participants by a year. This move took into account numerous supporting factors, including the logic that the added year of experience and maturity will boost the performance of players who are called into the Intrust Super Cup.
  • Intrust Super Cup clubs will be responsible for under 16 and under 18 player development within their agreed catchment areas, while regions and local leagues will be primarily responsible for the delivery of development opportunities for under 13s to 15s.
Jenni-Sue Hoepper leads the North Queensland Gold Stars out in Round 1, 2020. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Jenni-Sue Hoepper leads the North Queensland Gold Stars out in Round 1, 2020. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

The review recommendations will also result in changes from the under 13 to under 18 male pathway as follows:

  • The Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup (under 18) competition will feature six rounds within four regional conferences. Semi-finals and finals will be held.
  • An under 16 competition will align to the under 18 competitions, except that teams will play three matches with no finals. These games will replace the four-day State Junior carnival.
  • A City v Country development week will be added to the representative calendar with a game on Intrust Super Cup grand final day (age group TBC)
  • QRL regions in collaboration with affiliated local leagues will launch a new program offering from 2021 for aspiring under 13 to under 15 boys and girls. The local league programs will adopt content developed by the NRL’s RISE team and focus on core skills, socio-emotional development and physical foundations. The programs will include competitive fixtures amongst participants and will replace regional and state under 14 male and female carnivals previously held.

Likewise, the recommendations will result in changes from the under 13 to under 18 female pathway as follows:

  • An Under 19 statewide competition will be played within regional conferences in 2021 to complement the BHP premiership that launched in 2020. Teams will play three matches.
  • An Under 17 competition, to be based on events planned for this year, will take place with three regional carnivals held. No state carnival will be held.
  • A City v Country development week will be added to the representative calendar with a game on Intrust Super Cup grand final day (Age group TBC)
  • QRL regions in collaboration with affiliated local leagues will launch a new program offering from 2021 for aspiring under 13 to under 15 boys and girls. The local league programs will adopt content developed by the NRL’s RISE team and focus on core skills, socio-emotional development and physical foundations. The programs will include competitive fixtures amongst participants and will replace regional and state under 14 male and female carnivals previously held.

Moore said the game had also taken a collaborative approach to representative and school football in conjunction with Intrust Super Cup clubs and Queensland Secondary Schools Rugby League, with a view to ease the demands around playing and training.

He said all Intrust Super Cup clubs would align to deliver a network of club academies for under 16 and under 18 men, as well as under 19 women, with support from regions and leagues where needed in season 2021.

Academies will use the QRL’s athlete management system to coordinate activities and provide players and coaches with information to support their development.