After rigorous selection trials, the cream of Australian under-16 rugby talent will shortly descend on St Ignatius’ College, Riverview to fight for the coveted Rod Macqueen Shield. This tournament is an important stepping stone on the ARU Pathway to Gold, and who knows, one or more of these boys may even be in the Thunderbolts’ tilt for Rugby 7s Gold at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics.
The National U16s Championships provides the first taste of open national-level competition and state/territory representation for Australia’s best under 16-year-old rugby players. It would be naïve to think that the annual assembly of the best U16 rugby players was simply about competing for their state team to win national bragging rights. One of the real reasons for these championships, and the high level of ARU involvement and funding, is that it allows ARU high performance staff to view and assess the players respective to each other.
There will also be scouts from both rugby and that other code, along with interested club and school coaches and coaching directors. Some will be there with their chests swelling with pride, hoping that their boys perform to their potential; others will be on shopping or intelligence gathering missions.
Each state and territory team has a process for selection that includes club and school level, affiliate and association and regional and state representative trial programs. Despite best efforts to make the selection process as transparent and objective as possible, the announcement of the NSW and Queensland teams seldom occur without someone complaining about selector incompetence or bias. In the case of Queensland and NSW players where there are multiple teams representing the state, the boys will also have the opportunity to prove that the selectors’ decisions were either right or wrong.
The Championships return to St Ignatius’, where they have been held several times in recent years. The programme includes an intensive match schedule as well as important off-field sessions for players, coaches, managers, medical staff and referees to ensure that the week is a quality introduction to the kind of performance and development required to play, coach, manage and referee at the highest levels.
The purpose the Championships is to provide an effective quality platform for:
a) the selection and development of each state/territory’s talented young players, coaches, managers, referees and other officials;
b) the recruitment and retention of players, coaches, referees, managers and other officials;
c) the benchmarking of talented U16 players;
d) assisting with the improvement of playing standards and development of the game in all participating states/territories.
As well as deciding three trophies – the Rod Macqueen Shield (Div 1 Champions), the Nick Farr-Jones Shield (Div 1 Plate Champions) and the John Eales Shield (Div 2 Champions) — the U16 Championships providesthe best U16 players in Australia with the chance to participate in rugby education programs and experience a residential-style camp with their peers from across Australia.
The Championships crown a national champion team at Division 1 and Division 2 level as well as recognizing outstanding player contributions to team performance (‘Best Team Man’). Many players from these Championships will graduate to higher level development and representative programs. As the U16 cohort changes from year to year with very few players attending more than one tournament, direct comparisons of results and performances from year to year are difficult to make, but they do provide an indication of relative strengths at Open Schoolboy level.
Players who have competed at the ARU National U16 Championships and graduated to the Wallabies include:
Kurtley Beale, Berrick Barnes, Quade Cooper, Ben Daley, Anthony Fainga’a, Saia Fainga’a, Will Genia, Rob Horne, James Horwill, Lloyd Johansson, Peter Kimlin, Pat McCabe, Ben McCalman, James O’Connor, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Rob Simmons, James Slipper and Lachlan Turner.
Teams competing at the 2012 Championships are:
Championship – Division 1
(2011 Champion: Queensland Red)
Pool A: NSW Schools; Queensland White; Western Australia; NSW Country
Pool B: Queensland Red; Sydney Juniors; Victoria; ACT Brumbies
Championship – Division 2
(2011 Champion: National Indigenous)
National Indigenous; South Australia ; Northern Territory; Tasmania
MATCH DAY 1 – Monday, 1 October
0930 NSW Schools v. NSW Country – Oval 1 (Div 1 – Game 1)
1045 Sydney Juniors v. Victoria – Oval 1 (Div 1 – Game 2)
1330 Queensland Red v. Brumbies – Oval 1 (Div 1 – Game 3)
1445 Queensland White v. Western Australia – Oval 1 (Div 1 – Game 4)
MATCH DAY 2 – Tuesday, 2 October
0930 Tasmania v. South Australia – Oval 1 (Div 2 – Game 5)
1015 Sydney Juniors v. Brumbies – Oval 2 (Div 1 – Game 6)
1045 National Indigenous v. Northern Territory – Oval 1 (Div 2 – Game 7)
1330 Queensland White v. NSW Country – Oval 1 (Div 1 – Game 8)
1415 Queensland Red v. Victoria – Oval 2 (Div 1 – Game 9)
1445 NSW Schools v. Western Australia – Oval 1 (Div 1 – Game 10)
LAY DAY – Wednesday, 3 October
MATCH DAY 3 – Thursday, 4 October
0930 Victoria v. Brumbies – Oval 1 (Div 1 – Game 11)
1015 Tasmania v. National Indigenous – Oval 2 (Div 2 – Game 12)
1045 Western Australia v. NSW Country – Oval 1 (Div 1 – Game 13)
1330 Queensland Red v. Sydney Juniors – Oval 1 (Div 1 – Game 14)
1415 Northern Territory v. South Australia – Oval 2 (Div 2 – Game 15)
1445 NSW Schools v. Queensland White – Oval 1 (Div 1 – Game 16)
MATCH DAY 4 – Friday, 5 October
0845 Northern Territory v. Tasmania – Oval 2 (Div 2 – Game 17)
0900 Pool A (4th) v. Pool B (4th) – Oval 1 (Div 1 – Game 18)
1000 Pool A (2nd) v. Pool B (2nd) – Oval 2 (Div 2 – Game 19)
1020 South Australia v. National Indigenous – Oval 1 (Div 1 – Game 20)
1120 Pool A (3rd) v. Pool B (3rd) Div 1 Plate Final - Oval 2 (Div 1 – Game 21)
1140 Pool A (1st) v. Pool B (1st) Div 1 Final - Oval 1 (Div 1 – Game 22)
Rod Macqueen Shield – Winner of the Division 1 Final
Nick Farr-Jones Shield – Winner of Division 1 Plate Final (5th/6th play-off)
John Eales Shield – Winner of Division 2