Sydney parents and junior rugby league players will be part of a different league experience starting this footy season, with the code introducing new and safer game rules to ensure a more fun, friendly and free-flowing game for young kids.
The national changes, taking effect in the upcoming 2017 season, are part of a wider review of junior rugby league, with a focus on improving the game for under six and seven year olds, whilst continuing to develop the overall game involvement for all levels both on and off the field.
After extensive research and consultation amongst grassroots communities, children at the younger end of the playing spectrum will be part of a playing experience from next season focussed on more game time, increased opportunities with the ball and a positive learning environment where players are rewarded for their effort.
NRL Head of Football, Brian Canavan said the changes to junior models of the game were designed to provide greater inclusiveness and opportunity for all participants.
“This has been a process of many years of liaising with grassroots parents, clubs and stakeholders,” Mr Canavan said.
“The overwhelming feedback and direction is that at a young age, it is important for kids to simply enjoy their footy and build on personal, physical and social life skills – and if players continue on with their rugby league, these sentiments and skills continue.”
“Parents want to see their kids having fun and enjoying their rugby league in a safe and friendly environment and it is important that those just starting out playing the game have a positive experience, regardless of how long or how far they go.
“The changes introduced from this season will ensure that everyone is given a greater opportunity to have a go, throw the footy around and walk off the field each week having had fun with their friends.”
Along with changes on-field, the NRL will continue its policy of positive and appropriate off-field behaviour amongst parents, spectators and fellow participants.
“Children and young adults learn from those around them and we are committed to ensuring that those in our game, no matter what level and age, are respectful at all times,” Mr Canavan said.
NSW Rugby League General Manager – Football, Barrie-Jon Mather, said pilot programs conducted by NSWRL in Sydney in the off-season to make Rugby League a safer, more inclusive, fun and friendly sport for young children had proven hugely successful.
“We expect the same positive feedback to continue once the Junior Rugby League season gets underway and the new changes take effect,” Mather said.
“We have taken the feedback from our communities very seriously and are confident the changes implemented will result in more children playing and staying in the game.”
Junior registration for 2017 seasons is now open nationally, with a dedicated website about where, what and how you can get involved in your local rugby league at NRL.com/play
The website also includes the various models and rules of the different game varietals, depending on age groups, as well as coaching and training programs and the game’s code of conduct for all participants.