Two of the New South Wales Blues and Country Rugby League’s greatest players will inspire the next generation of talent from Regional New South Wales, with the CRL launching the Andrew Johns and Laurie Daley Cups today (Tuesday, 20 February) at Rugby League Central.
The new Junior Representative competitions will feature over 550 of the best young players from across Regional NSW and see a total of 52 games played in 23 towns across the state over seven weeks.
The Under-16s (Andrew Johns Cup) and Under-18s (Laurie Daley Cup) competitions will feature eleven teams taking the field in each age division, with eight of the eleven franchises currently linked with NRL clubs; with the aim of having all regions aligned by the start of the 2019 season.
CRL Chairman John Anderson believes today’s announcement and associated partnership with NRL clubs is a watershed moment for Country Rugby League.
“Country Rugby League is committed to providing the best pathway for players from Regional NSW and I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful support we’ve received from the Australian Rugby League Commission and NRL clubs in forming these competitions,” said Anderson.
“With the majority of players in New South Wales coming from regional areas, it’s vital that our players can be part of an NRL pathway without having to leave home and we’re extremely grateful to have the support of the clubs for our new Junior Representative competitions.”
This season will see the St George Illawarra Dragons, Penrith Panthers, Wests Tigers and Canberra Raiders form new partnerships with CRL franchises competing in the Andrew Johns and Laurie Daley Cups, with the Sydney Roosters continuing their support of the Central Coast Roosters.
The Penrith Panthers and Newcastle Knights will also enter sides into the new competitions, in addition to their existing partnerships with the Western Rams and Newcastle Region.
NRL Head of Football, Brian Canavan said the Andrew Johns and Laurie Daley Cups would form an important stepping stone for many talented junior rugby league players aiming to progress their playing careers towards the NRL.
“These competitions will provide an opportunity for many of our junior players throughout country New South Wales to compete at a representative level, whilst remaining in their home-towns, amongst the support of family and friends, which is important in younger years of life,” Mr Canavan said.
“We have been working for some time across our whole of game to ensure a consistent and balanced process throughout our pathways and I wish all competing players the best of luck.”
Reflecting on the Under-18’s competition bearing his name, Daley admitted it was a huge honour to be associated with the new CRL pathway.
“I’ve always been proud of where I come from (Junee Diesels) and today’s announcement is the start of a great opportunity for the next generation of country players,” said Daley.
“To see NRL clubs forming strong partnerships with various regions in the country is fantastic and will hopefully inspire young players to chase their dream of playing in the NRL.”
Johns, a Cessnock Goannas junior and Country Rugby League Team of the Century member, admitted he was excited to see the next generation of country players take the field in the Andrew Johns Cup.
“As a kid growing up in Cessnock, rugby league was everything and I’m sure Laurie felt the same way coming through the grades in Junee,” said Johns.
“To have our names featured in these competitions is a huge honour and I’m excited to see the next Boyd Cordner, Tyson Frizell or Latrell Mitchell making their mark on our game.”
The Best and Fairest Medals for the Andrew Johns and Laurie Daley Cups will pay tribute to two of Country Rugby League’s Life Members, with the Rod Lanesbury (Andrew Johns Cup) and Tom Nelson (Laurie Daley Cup) Medals awarded to the Best and Fairest Player in their respective competitions.
The Andrew Johns and Laurie Daley Cups will kick-off this weekend with Round 1 matches taking place in Bega, Cabarita, Gundagai, Mudgee and Muswellbrook. All matches will be live streamed on Country Rugby League’s Facebook page and website courtesy of BAR TV Sports.