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Ryan to draw on time under coaching greats

Newly-appointed NSW Under 19s coach Andrew Ryan will be drawing on some of the first class coaching he was privy to in his career as he attempts to help mould the next generation of Origin players.

A True Blue for five Origin series, including the NSW wins in 2004 and 2005, Ryan played 12 games under coaches Phil Gould, Ricky Stuart and Graham Murray.

He began his 291 NRL-game career under Brian Smith at the Parramatta Eels before moving to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs with mentor Steve Folkes – the pair celebrating the 2004 Premiership together with Ryan as captain in the absence of the injured Steve Price.

Ryan also worked for two years alongside NSW Country coach Craig Fitzgibbon and handled the NSW Under 16s players in the Blues pathways system.

“I suppose you adapt your coaching according to the style the players have,” Ryan said.

“We only get the guys for a short time so it’s all about playing for each other and playing for that NSW jersey.

“Fortunately, I was lucky to have some good coaches during my playing days so it’s all about getting as tight as we can, as quick as we can.

“When you don’t get many sessions with them there’s no point in over-complicating things. They get selected in the Under 19s because they are the best going around in that age group.”

Ryan takes over from former St George Illawarra NRL head coach Paul McGregor, who was appointed NSW Under 19s coach for 2021 before the game against Queensland Under 19s was abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

McGregor is now assistant to Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler for the 2022 series.

Ryan hopes to draw on all their collective footy brains when it comes to selecting the final Under 19s team from a squad that will be put through their paces at several lead-up camps, starting with one at the NSWRL Centre of Excellence on 12 December.

“Obviously (NSWRL pathways analyst) Matt Parish and ‘Mary’ and ‘Freddy’ and everyone will be involved because we’re all pulling together in these age squads,” Ryan said.

“We have a camp in a couple of weeks so that will be good to get together.

“I’m assuming I’ll have a fair say selection-wise when the time comes, but I’ll be looking for plenty of input from people who have more to do with some of these guys in their age groups.”

The Under 19s interstate game is scheduled as the curtain-raiser for Origin 1 at Sydney’s Stadium Australia on 8 June next year. 

Ryan has been researching the players named for the upcoming Under 19s training camps.

“I haven’t seen a lot of these kids play but just having a look at the charts and the names of some of these guys that I do recognise, we have depth in a lot of areas,” he said.

“In the pathways teams I did a couple of years ago we had guys like Stephen Crichton, Matt Burton and Spencer Leniu playing for us. It’s amazing how quickly it can happen for these guys.

“After the December 12 camp I’ll have a better idea of where we’re at and what combinations are going to work well for us.”