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Fittler, Hilder back changes for Community Rugby League

Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler and Harvey Norman NSW Sky Blues coach Kylie Hilder have today endorsed the next phase of the national Player Development Framework for the 2023 Community Rugby League season in NSW, which aims to further increase the enjoyment for all participants, especially children in the early stages of their Rugby League experience.

The game-wide initiative has been developed by the Australian Rugby League Commission for implementation nationally, with NSWRL, QRL and affiliated states introducing the framework in different phases to be completed by 2026. They include:

- League Tag instead of tackle for Under 6s;

- transitioning from League Tag to tackle mid-season for Under 7s (players to start with League Tag as they undergo the Rugby League Ready program with tackle to commence by the June long weekend pending approval of zone managers);

- the phasing in of development competitions only (no grand finals) for age groups below and including Under 12s (in 2023 in NSW, this will be for age groups up to and including Under 9s);

- development competitions to still maintain scores and play for wins and losses to encourage children to compete and try their best, learning valuable lessons about winning and losing week in week out.

Fittler said the changes would encourage more participants to get involved with Rugby League.

“We want everyone in the community who wants to be involved in the game to feel like they are a part of the Rugby League family and adopting the Player Development Framework will help us achieve that goal,” he said.

“These initiatives have been developed and approved by the Australian Rugby League Commission and backed by extensive independent research, with the primary objective being to ensure all children have a positive experience playing the greatest game of all.”

Hilder said it was important for all stakeholders to get behind the changes.

“We are making changes to the way junior Rugby League is being played to further increase the enjoyment for all participants, especially children in the early stages of their Rugby League experience,” she said.

“I encourage all our coaches to stand up and embrace the changes so they can give every child every opportunity to enjoy our game every week regardless of ability.”

The Player Development Framework has been in place in Queensland and other states of Australia since 2019. NSW elected to phase the changes in gradually from this year until 2026 with some areas already well advanced with their plans including Hunter Junior Rugby League and Group 9.

The participation rate in Queensland has improved from 62,058 players in 2018 before the first full year of implementation to 64,329 players this season. In the key impacted 10-12 age groups, the figures have shown a 5.6 per cent increase with 13,920 players in 2022.

NSW Community Rugby League Manager Peter Clarke said the decision to phase the changes in gradually in NSW was to ensure a smooth transition. The changes and approach have been supported by the Community Rugby League Association.

“All our participants learn the fundamentals of Rugby League when they first start and are gradually introduced to other skills as they progress,” Clarke said. “Fundamental to the program is ensuring the safety, wellbeing and enjoyment of all our players.

“We’ve already witnessed great results from the ‘Rugby League Ready’ program last season and the initiatives in 2023 will assist children with their confidence and add to their enjoyment.”

Player registrations for the 2023 season will open on Thursday 1 December.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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