This is the NSW Pathway explained
Can someone explain how the Qld lads from 8 of the 9 GPS schools who were not able to play in their recent selection trials, due to decisions by their respective Headmasters, can possibly get exposure to the selectors if they are not attending the Aust Champs at Riverview this year?
If I read the selection criteria correctly, if they aren't already involved in the Queensland Academy - then they don't - they miss out.
Would be very keen to hear somebody's first hand experience of what this is looking like in practice.
That would be a tragedy for Aust Schools rugby. It is just not conceivable that no lad from those 8 schools would not be good enough to make the Schools side. What is going on up north???
Basically the GPS headmasters backed the Academy pathway.
The Schools and Academy pathways up here in Qld are not aligned . Quite a pity really, would have been good to see something similar to what has happened in NSW.
Rugby Australia officials say their decision to prioritise U18 academy fixtures over the national schools championships will not interfere with the tradition of the Australian Schoolboys team.
Many of the country's top schoolboy players, especially in Queensland, will not take part in the Australian Schools Rugby championships in Sydney in just over a week's time, with their GPS schools not involved in the state carnival earlier in the year.
It reflects changes made to the high performance set-up, with Rugby Australia now running the country's premier U18 team with a focus on development and retention of players, rather than performance at a five-day carnival focused solely on selection.
U18 academy fixtures start this weekend and culminate in a double-header in Brisbane in September after which the Australian Schools and U18 team will be named.
Rugby Australia's national head of talent management Adrian Thompson said a review by the national school strategy group found the Schoolboys team was not truly representative of talent at the U18 level given so many students outside of NSW currently finish school at 17.
Will Harris in action for the Australian Schools and U18s against New Zealand before making the transition to the Junior Wallabies this season. Photo: Getty Images
"There's no way that they could represent Australia under the old system because the Australian Schools Rugby Union would only allow them to represent Australia should they actually still be at school," Thompson said.
"The national school strategy group last year ran a massive process over three or four months led by Paul McLean and came up with the thought that an AustralianU18 team should be truly representative and not limited to just kids at school.
"But the name itself (the team is now known as the Australian Schools and U18s) probably also reflects the fact that it's no longer a team run by the Australian Schools Rugby Union, or selected by the Australian Schools Rugby Union, it's run by Rugby Australia and it's another one of our high performance national teams in the same way that the U20s or Junior Wallabies are.
"So that was a reason we made the change."
Rugby Australia no longer financially supports the national schools championship, although the titles will still go ahead in Sydney with two teams each from Queensland and NSW, as well as the ACT, Victoria, Cavalier Barbarians and Cavalier combined states.
Angus Bell captained the Australian Schools and U18s last year before being a part of the Junior Wallabies campaign in 2019.
"We felt high performance teams shouldn't be picked from a week-long carnival that basically happens at different times for every school comp," Thompson said.
"So Queensland hasn't started (GPS) school rugby at that time when they play; NSW are halfway through; some schools won't let their kids go to it.
"So to be honest, we felt it was time to move on from there and we have."
Schoolboys tradition to be retained
There has been much angst around the decision to change the U18 pathway, with many fearing it will erode a schoolboys tradition that stretches back decades to famous teams featuring players from the Ella brothers to league "immortal" Wally Lewis.
But Thompson said that would not be lost.
While players are now identified at U16 level and placed in state-based academies, those academy programs are designed to support and work around schoolboy competitions.
"The purpose of those academies is to support their school programs - because the school programs are really good in Australia," Thompson said.
"It's important that we play these academy U18 games this year for the first time that are spaced out over a period of time that fits in with each state's school commitments and it's not putting too much pressure on the boys to play too much footy in a short period of time.
The Australian Schoolboys have a proud tradition of producing outstanding players such as Mark Ella. Photo: Getty Images
"So it's designed to allow boys to concentrate on their school footy without having to worry about playing a rep carnival in the middle of it.
"It keeps the tradition of Australian schools rugby which has got a great tradition. For us, we've copped some flak over the last 12 months about this.
"But most individual schools are supportive because they see that it's taken that massive pressure off the boys in the middle of the year.
"It was never to impact on the national team, in fact it was to enhance that.
"We felt that the national champs weren't ideal from a high performance perspective. We didn't think that was the right way to pick the national side."
The changes will not affect the prestige of Australian Schoolboys selection.
Who benefits from the change?
Thompson said all players would benefit from changes that took the spotlight off one relatively short carnival that had traditionally been used as a selection tool but did not always ensure the best players were being picked for Australia.
"What we believe is that the Australian team needs to be selected based on form over a season, as any national team should be," Thompson said.
"So their form at school rugby and association games are really important, not how they perform in a carnival in three or four days.
"We wanted to make the selection process more appropriate."
"The way the school system works, nationally everyone will start finishing at 18 over the next couple of years, so that will be less of an issue.
Carlo Tizzano won a place in the Australian Schools and then the Junior Wallabies from the Force Academy ststem. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley
"But the reality is to get selected under the old system, if you were at a non-traditional rugby school, it was often hard to work your way through the system because there were so many levels of selection.
"I think with our academy staff and the talent ID staff we have now in each start through the Super teams, I think it will ensure that every kid gets a fair crack."
A recent example is West Australian forward Carlo Tizzano, who was selected for last year's Australian Schools and U18 tour of the UK despite having already finished school.
Through his performances there and development in the Force Academy system, Tizzano was selected to the Junior Wallabies side for the recent world championships in Argentina and remains eligible for next year's titles.
Can players outside the system still be picked up?
"We're trying to make plenty of entry points to make sure it's not just a closed shop," Thompson said.
"I think it will broaden the base of kids we look at.
"A good example is Mark."
Flying winger Mark Nawaqanitawase was one of the stars of the Junior Wallabies Oceania and junior world championship campaigns, starting for the Junior Wallabies in last weekend's final and scoring a try inside the first minute.
Yet the former St Patricks College, Strathfield, student did not make the NSW Schoolboys side last year, let alone the national team.
Winger Mark Nawaqanitawase scores a try for the Junior Wallabies. Photo: Rugby AU Media
"He played ISA 2 last year in Sydney and I remember watching him, he was playing in the centres," Thompson said.
"It was pretty obvious the kid had talent but he never made it through the selection process to make the NSW schools.
"And 12 months later he's in a World Cup final and contracted with the Waratahs.
"That's the danger about making everything about representative selection rather than development."
Focusing on a series of academy matches instead, will give the greatest number of players the greatest chance to impress over time, with consistency rewarded.
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What will become of the national schools competition?
Time will tell whether the competition still run by the Australian Schools Rugby Union will continue to flourish.
St Joseph's College Gregory Terrace was the only Queensland GPS school to send students to the state schools championships in Brisbane this year, with the two Sunshine State teams to compete in Sydney containing players from several non-traditional rugby schools.
They're likely to struggle against NSW sides that contain their best players. The upside though, is all are being watched.
"The selection group for the Australian team is myself, (Queensland and NSW heads of talent management) Paul Carozza and Andrew Cleverley, plus Andrew Clark from the Brumbies and Nic Henderson at the Rebels and obviously Pete Hewat, so we just continuously depth chart the group as we go through the year," Thompson said.
Peter Hewat has taken over the Schools and U18s reins. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley
"John Papahatzis is on that panel as well and he'll be at the schools champs and Paul and Andrew will be at some stage and then John will also come to a couple of academy games as well.
"But our analysts will have all that stuff available for everyone, so there'll definitely be people at those championships for sure."
An Australian Schools Barbarians team will be selected from the championships to play Samoa but any player selected in this team as well as the Australian Schools and U18 team will prioritise the national pathway.
The Australian Schools and U18s will tour New Zealand in September, playing three matches.
Is there still a pathway for those who miss out?
Thompson says opportunities are better than ever for a greater number of players identified and given a development pathway earlier than ever before - a key to retaining talent in the game.
"Traditionally rugby league kids have been involved with the Broncos, the Sharks, since they're 15 or 16 and now they can do that with the Reds, the Brumbies, the Waratahs as well," Thompson said.
"So I think there's some identity there.
"And when they come together with national programs - I think you saw with this group of kids we took away (to the world junior championships), how tight they were as a group to be a part of that Australian system as well.
"We'll run elite youth camps for the best 16 and 17-year-olds and Schools and 18s, so (we're) constantly bringing them in to see they're a part of a national picture."
Brandon Paenga-Amosa is among players to have missed the Australian schoolboys team but go on to play Test rugby. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley
But missing the Schools and U18s team is far from the end of the road.
"(The point is) not making one team the pinnacle," Thompson said.
"There's a lot more kids who play Junior Wallabies and then Super Rugby than make the Australian schools team.
"I guess the purpose of this is not to put pressure on selection, it's about kids performing consistently and if they do that, they won't get missed.
"You'll see a lot of kids will make that Junior Wallabies squad who get identified through this process but they may not make that Schools and 18s side.
"There might be other kids in their position, they might not be physically ready, whatever. But I think it will broaden the base of kids we look at."
Rugby Australia's U18 academy fixtures kick off on Sunday, June 30, with the Rebels taking on the Reds in Melbourne. Another four matches will be held through July and mid-September before the competition finishes with a double-header at Ballymore on September 22.
The Australian Schools Rugby Championships will be held at Riverview College, Sydney, from July 9-13.
The thing is, this new pathways process can still be executed whilst not cannibalising the schools national carnival. This carnival historically bought all the best players together, only excluding those kids who had in fact left school. This is a small number of lads. The vast majority are still at school. like 90%. These lads can still be observed and considered without playing in the schools National carnival.
Unfortunately we now have a situation where the 2 full strength NSW sides will be playing against 2 Qld sides without 8 of the 9 GPS school players taking part. That is a tragedy.
Are we to expect the selectors can get an accurate picture of those Nudgee Churchie TSS et al players without coming up against the best NSW offer?? Is the Qld comp so good they don't need to be tested at a higher level.
Sure we can pick on the exceptions but given the process of including age based players who are not at school, why eliminate the Qld GPS schools from the Qld state side to play in the carnival.
I think it is a backward step. Rugby is about tribalism. Accept that. And pulling on a Maroon or sky blue while at school is part of this process. I think the GPS have just devalued the Maroon jersey.
Tell me when does the best of the best Qld school aged players come together and who do they play and when?????
From a NSW perspective its at the Schools National carnival this school holidays.
The schools self eliminated. They had the choice and chose to go down a different path