Cairns' rugby future bright
CAIRNS will only have to wait five years until it sees a locally produced rugby player enter the national competition, a Queensland Rugby Union official says.QRU Cairns development officer Mitch Craig said the Far North's junior players had enough "raw talent" for one of them to eventually crack rugby's elite Super 15 competition, with retention past the school leaving age remaining a key challenge.
"There's a lot of natural talent in Cairns and its region. A lot of players possess a very good spatial awareness of the game," Craig said.
"Once they go from school, there is a high drop-out rate because players go to Brisbane or Townsville for university.
"So if we do keep them in Cairns, then obviously numbers go up, participation goes up and the skill level of the competition will increase as well."
Craig estimated there are about 750 juniors (under-6 to under-16 years) playing in the Far North, with the recent establishment of clear school and club based pathways designed to encourage young players to continue in rugby in the hope of eventually making it to Super 15.
"At the moment we've got junior and seniors but there's nothing in between," he said, adding that the introduction of a representative under-19 competition would aim to solve this.
"It's not too far away in terms of getting a professional rugby player who was born and bred in Cairns."
Craig, who has been overseeing junior development in rugby for the past year, said the QRU would continue with its busy program schedule this year, listing the grassroots Rookies2Reds program and the establishment of the Queensland Rugby FNQ Referee Academy as some of the code's recent successes in the Far North.
However, competition for fans and players alike remains a constant battle for local rugby, coming up against other popular winter sports, such as soccer and rugby league.
"Our professional team is the Queensland Reds which is based in Brisbane, but we are also competing with the Cowboys which are just four hours down the road," Craig said. "What we are striving for is to get the (QLD Reds) heroes here at least two times in a year just to make sure there's continual touch back with the kids."
NEW CAIRNS.COM.AU COMMENT POLICY
We welcome your comments on this story. Comments are submitted for possible publication on the condition that they may be edited. Comments submitted without a full name and suburb/location will not be considered for publication. Please read our full comment policy and publication guidelines.
Share this article
Growing code: QRU Cairns development officer Mitch Craig at Barlow Park. Picture: BRENDAN FRANCIS