Rugby league: NRL club partnership to benefit region's juniors

BRIDGING THE GAP: Players in the Group 19 system will have more opportunity to pursue a rugby league career with a partnership between the Bulldogs and Greater Northern. Photo: Brenton Hodge.
BRIDGING THE GAP: Players in the Group 19 system will have more opportunity to pursue a rugby league career with a partnership between the Bulldogs and Greater Northern. Photo: Brenton Hodge.

Glen Innes has one of the largest junior rugby league bases in the region.

The town has produced plenty of players who have plied their trade at a higher level, but they have had to move to another area to do so.

Earlier this month, the Greater Northern Tigers and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs announced a partnership which would see juniors from the region developed further in their rugby league careers.

The partnership will see the NRL club provide support and coaching through the use of satellite programs.

Glen Innes Magpies vice-president Samuel Schiffmann welcomed the partnership.

"By developing the partnership it should keep the juniors local instead of shipping them off to Sydney at a young age and taking them out of our systems," he said.

"I think the partnership provides an excellent future for grassroots rugby league in Glen Innes.

"The partnership with the Bulldogs is great for the younger kids coming through the ranks as Glen Innes does have quite a solid minor league as well as an under 18s junior side.

"It will provide that pathway for the juniors to get to that next level in rugby league and excel in all aspects of their game."

While the Newcastle Knights once used the region as a "breeding ground" and the Wests Tigers more recently with their efforts to play one of their NRL games in Tamworth each season the Bulldogs are also keen to form a relationship.

Greater Northern Region includes Group 19, 4 and 21 and area manager, Scott Bone, said it will bolster current programs.

"It's in line with all the other country regions," Scott Bone said.

"We are the last to be officially linked to a NRL club.

"Northern Rivers have the Titans, North Coast are also with the Bulldogs, the Central Coast is with the Sydney Roosters and Newcastle, Maitland, obviously, with the Knights.

"The Wests Tigers have that Group 6 camden area, the Dragons are linked to the Illawarra South Coast, Western is with the Penrith Panthers and the Monaroa Riverina with the Canberra Raiders.

"The Bulldogs will help us with our resources and upskilling of of coaches in the area. It's also about lending support to the junior leagues and helping improve the coaches and coaching standards at that junior level."

He said Newcastle Knights once regarded the region as "theirs" and attracted many outstanding young players such as Robbie McCormack (Inverell), Brad Tighe (Tamworth), current Cronulla coach John Morris (Scone) and Werris Creek's Matt Parsons (via St George) to their ranks.

Canterbury also had some great links with the region too in the late '80s," Scott Bone said.

"The McGradys and Ryan boys from Moree all played down there, Gunnedah's David (Dooga) McCantoo, Muswellbrook's Jamie Feeney played there and more recently Kerrod Holland, who started out at Singleton but then went to Cessnock and Newcastle Knights is now in their first grade side. Players like Jimmy Leis (Tamworth), who went to Wests first but finished up at the Bulldogs, have great links with the club."

Even the late great Mick Adams, a former England captain finished his career with Canterbury, before making Tamworth his home kept the Bulldog link to the region real.

"It would be great to be able to work with the Bulldogs to provide a pathway for all our kids," Scott Bone said.

"If we could work in together everyone in the region, from Tenterfield out to Moree and down into the Hunter, would benefit."