The opening NSWRL Pathways camp of 2018 commenced at Narrabeen yesterday, with the state’s most promising young Rugby League talent gathering to be guided by managers and coaches that include a host of True Blues.
The three-day camp is one of the many long-term steps that aim to develop players as young as under-16s into potential State of Origin players further down the track, with junior Origin games (u-16s, u-18s and u-20s) being played annually against Queensland.
For the under-16s and under-18s – which are the players attending this three-day camp – results of the junior Origin games are a secondary priority, with development both on and off the field being the primary goal. In saying that, not a single NSW team in the Pathways Program has lost a game in two years, meaning that the goal of fast-tracked development has coincided with winning.
Leading the highly successful program are NSWRL Performance Programs manager Jamie Feeney and NSWRL Performance Solutions Manager Brad Pryjmachuk, who play a hands-on role with the players in every camp and have recruited a number of True Blues to share their wisdom with the players.
Among those is Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues assistant coach Danny Buderus, who coached the NSW under-20s side to victory last year, and now plays a role in both juniors and seniors meaning there is a defined link between the two.
“We kicked off the seniors on Saturday with the Emerging [Blues camp],” Buderus tells NSWRL.com.au.
“We had about 40 players there for that, and now we’ve got another 40 here with the 16s and 18s, it’s a start for them about the Pathways Program [which] has been running for about four years now.
Nick Cotric, Brock Lamb, Victor Radley, Blake Laurie, Jai Field and Matt Dufty are just a handful of others who have made their NRL debut after coming out of the NSWRL Pathways Program, and they have some of the brightest futures within our game.
There was no such program when the likes of Buderus was making a name for himself, and he see’s the benefit in targeting these young players from an early age.
“It’s hard at 16, there are a few things that arise that makes the routine go out of whack,” Buderus said.
“It’s about their training and off the field the strategies around being consistent in most parts of their life, then that will transfer onto the field.
“They’re all a little bit quiet at the moment, but I’m looking forward to making them feel more comfortable and by Wednesday afternoon they should feel a part of the Pathways Program.”
Another True Blue lending his hand to the next generation of NSW is Mark O’Meley.
O’Meley, who terrorised Queensland from 2001 to 2006 through brute strength and determination, is thrilled to be giving back to his state and helping the development of young players within NSW.
“As a kid coming through it was always something I looked up to, it was the pinnacle of junior Rugby League,” O’Meley tells NSWRL.com.au of junior Origin games.
“You don’t need to overcomplicate Rugby League, Origin is about repetition, end-to-end football and the grind, so we’ve got some good skill here and good body shapes and we’ll try and get the best out of these kids.
“For me to be able to give back and try to help out, and hopefully have an imprint on these kids’ careers I’ll be pretty happy.”