When the Canberra Raiders claimed a memorable win against the Cronulla Sharks in Round 20 of last year, it was a result many years in the making.
With a host of established stars rested, ten players who had been part of the Raiders junior system took to the field for the club and showcased their talent in the NRL.
As the 2021 junior representative season begins this weekend, the building blocks for the next group of young boys and girls truly gets underway.
With the 2020 junior representative season cut short last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been challenges due to players missing valuable game time. However, a change in the age groups by NSWRL, as well as a new approach in training has helped negate that.
Each of the three grades has moved up one year in their age groups, which also compliments the Country Championships which have remained as Under 16 and Under 18 competitions.
“Now, we don’t need to make too hard of a call on players,” Raiders Head of Pathwaysand Performance, Dean Souter said.
“If there’s a kid who’s not clearly ready to be in an S.G. Ball or Harold Matthews environment, we can put them in the Riverina and Monaro pathway and bring them through the following year.”
The change in age groups has also allowed the Raiders to build upon a promising group of players in the Tarsha Gale Cup.
“Because of the success we had last season, we received a lot more attention from people who sit within our footprint – which is the Riverina down to the South Coast belt,” Souter said. “When the girls came back this season, every single one of them was recording better pre-season times than they were last year.
“They’re stronger, their bodies are a little more mature, they retained that understanding and base coaching we did last year which has allowed us to go to a second level of coaching this pre-season.
“We’ve had some of these girls for three seasons now and it’s starting to show in this particular year.”