Coronavirus prompts change to pathway progression to NRL


“Obviously with the cancellation of the pathways competitions this year, we’re concerned about the impact,” Ellis said.

“We’re in discussions about doing a piece of work but it’s very preliminary. There are lots of views and that’s why we’re doing a piece of work to understand what those views are.

“We’re doing a piece of work to look at the effect of the pandemic on the pathway and look at how we collectively get that done.

Manly’s Ben Trbojevic is one of the best young juniors emerging through the pathways systems.Credit:NRL Photos

“The most positive thing is we are all at the table, so we will end up aligned at the end. You have a look at whether there is any duplication in the pathway, the HSC, all of those things.

“There are lots of opinions on this, but you only have to look at the NRL competition to see that what we’re doing isn’t wrong.”

In a column he penned for the Sun-Herald last month, Phil Gould outlined his vision for the junior pathways.

“The first order of business would be to change the age groups going forward, so the kids who have missed out on the opportunity this year get to play at this level of competition next season,” Gould wrote.

“It’s a simple process. We just add one year to the current age restrictions. The junior competitions next year should be under-17s and under-19s, replacing the under-16s and under-18s.

“It’s at this point that I would like to suggest we go a little further with the under-20s and make it an under-23s competition, like we used to have many decades ago …

“I’m confident that if they move to an under-23s competition – rather than under-20s – in conjunction with the open-age state cup competitions, over time that will produce an increase in the number of NRL standard players.”

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The preferred option for Jersey Flegg at present is for it to revert to under-21s, although a range of scenarios will be worked through. Players are sweating on the outcome given most clubs are holding off on signing junior and development contracts until there is clarity about competition structures.

“We’ll look at what the evidence and research says about the best age groups and come up with an outcome at the end of that,” Ellis said.

“It will have to be the next few months so that everyone will have as much time as possible to prepare for 2021.”

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