The nib Newcastle Knights in partnership with the Newcastle Rugby League continues to help build an easier pathway for local talent to the NRL.
This weekend marks the second ‘Futures Round’ for the local competition this year where man-of-the-match recipients will be chosen from all eight districts' Under 19s teams.
They’ll join another eight players, selected from the first ‘Futures Round’ in the competition’s Round 8, on an invitational only trial with the Knights Under 20s squad in October.
“It is something we looked at when we did our draw at the end of last season and obviously Under 19s in any junior competition is important for us and the Knights,” said Matt Harris, CEO of Newcastle Rugby League.
“Those players are naturally the future of our game at our level and the NRL level.”
Harris maintains the initiative highlights the importance of the relationship between the Knights and the Newcastle Rugby League.
“There are probably the traditional ways you can get to an NRL level, that’s through your 16s rep sides with the Knights, your 18s and Australian Schoolboys etcetera, but there are plenty of examples of players that have gone through another way,” explained Harris.
“That is something we want to highlight, that the local competition can also be a stepping stone, which is important for our comp to be healthy.”
Newcastle Knights Elite Pathways Recruitment Manager Troy Pezet believes the partnership is a good opportunity to identify and promote young talent from the local area.
“We need to continue to develop a grassroots pathway to the NRL,” he said.
“With Newcastle, Maitland and Group 21 having a strong junior base here, it is important for us to have a lot of entry and exit points along the way to first grade or to the Under 20s at least.
“By us recognising the good kids in the Under 19s, who are also playing reserve grade and first grade in our local competition, it shows they’re not forgotten just because they’re not playing Under 20s.
“There is still an opportunity for them and we’re obviously going to foster that along the way.”
Players like Jack Jordan from the Macquarie Scorpions is one of many players that will be pushing for man-of-the-match selection this weekend for his chance to trial with the Knights Under 20s later in the year.
“It gives all the boys a great opportunity to have a crack and get their name out there,” he said.
“It would be awesome, I would love it.
“It is what I want to do with my life; just play footy and it is good they’re giving the locals a go instead of just going elsewhere.”
The ‘Futures Round’ Under 19s will be playing at 1.45pm this weekend before first grade.