AUSTRALIAN SECONDARY SCHOOLS RUGBY LEAGUE
ANNUAL REPORT 2013
This year has seen continued change in the general Rugby League landscape, and this has been reflected in changes in schoolboy Rugby League as well. The current level of co-operation between the NRL and our association is unprecedented, as is the level of support from the parent body. ASSRL sincerely thanks all those at the NRL who have supported us this year, but most especially Gareth Holmes, Andrew Hill and Marty Meredith. Both our Championships were highly successful and produced superb football, and our representative team toured New Zealand to considerable acclaim.
Our 2013 Australian Schoolboys team, selected at the National Championships, toured the Land of the Long White Cloud for two Tests against the New Zealand 18 Years Residents side with one win to each side. The Manager’s Report is elsewhere in this book, and covers the tour in commendable detail. It was my pleasure to be Executive representative on the tour, and I can gladly commend the behaviour and attitude of all players as worthy ambassadors for ASSRL. Team management should be congratulated on their efforts in developing a positive and co-operative culture amongst the team group. It was nice to receive complimentary comments from members of the public on numerous occasions when we were in transit and clad in our dress gear, both on the appearance of the boys and on their demeanour. On field standards were also high, though I’m sure all would readily admit that results might have been better with more consistency.
Congratulations, too, to all team officials, who did a great job. Peter Denham, in his third year as coach, was attentive to the individual game of each player, and was diligent and thorough in his analysis of games. His focus on developing players as young men was appreciated by the boys, and yielded positive results. Manager Kort Goodman, in his first year at the job, was exceptionally well organised, and always thinking a step ahead. He, too, established effective working relationships with the players. Trainer Damon Rehbein showed his excellent knowledge of the game and the physical preparation required for it, and was organised and purposeful and worked highly effectively with all players. We were lucky to again have the services of physiotherapist Ben Heidenreich, who gave up his practice for a fortnight to attend to our players. His skills and experience were greatly appreciated, and there were a number of players who would not have played game two were it not for Ben’s unstinting work.
I’d like to thank Chris Mahony from NSWCHS for volunteering to be educational tutor for the tour, and to the NRL for underwriting Chris’ travel and accommodation. The purpose in sending an executive representative was exemplified in my extended negotiations with our hosts about the venue for the second game. I was also able to extract a commitment from the NZRL for an extended pattern of exchanges between them and Australian Schoolboys through to 2020. ASSRL would like to thank the NZRL for their hospitality in hosting our tour, especially the efforts of Dain Guttenbeil and Dean Watson.
The 18 Years Championships were an outstanding event. Hosted by Queensland Secondary Schools at Barlow Park, Cairns, and with the support of Northern Pride and Cairns District Rugby League, these were the first Championships under our new pool system, which aimed to be more inclusive and pit teams against opponents different from past norms. As with any changes, we learnt more about them after implementation. This system will continue next year before being reviewed at our 2014 Conference.
Though rain and wind plagued us on a number of days, they did not affect the smooth running of the Championships nor the quality of the games. Indeed, veteran Daily Telegraph reporter Phil Rothfield commented that the games were very close to NRL standard. NSWCHS won one of the most thrilling finals in memory, defeating QSSRL 26 – 22.
ARLC Commissioner Chris Sara again attended, and he and Petero Civinoceva were among the presenters of awards after the Final and at the Closing Ceremony.
These Championships had been preceded in June by the Affiliated States Championship in Adelaide, won by Victoria Secondary Schools, and from which the CAS team was chosen. Ken Kennedy and Joe Messina again ran this event in an effective way. Graham McNaney pulled off a coup in having Kangaroos Coach Tim Sheens as guest speaker at the Players’ Dinner, which was again an impressive event.
The 15 Years Championships were hosted by ACT Schools at Belconnen. The unfortunate illness of Phill Dodd meant that Glyn Sargent, Jon Tucker and Mark Greer had to assume greater responsibilities at a late date, and the smooth running of the Championships attests to their skills and commitment. In a first for ASSRL, Federal Minister for Sport Kate Lundy officially opened our Championships, and did so with good grace and humour. ARLC Commissioners Dr Chris Sara and Wayne Pearce attended the Players’ Dinner, as did NRL CEO Dave Smith, while Chris also attended games on the Tuesday. Through the auspices of Gareth Holmes and Paul Walker, each team was able to experience a recovery session using state of the art AIS facilities and an education session aligned with NRL philosophies.
For the first time, players selected in the 15 Years Pool A Merit Team were given a further honour with an invitation to attend either a Queensland Academy camp or a NSW Blues in Waiting camp, according to their eligibility.
An innovation at both Championships was an information meeting for parents. Held simultaneously to the Players’ Dinner, these alerted parents to the services provided by NRL Welfare and Education, and advised them about the realities of the difficulties faced by players aiming to play NRL, as well as about issues surrounding Player Agents. Thanks here to people like Gareth Holmes, Paul Walker, Andrew Hill, Ian Schubert and Paul Massey. Former players like Andrew Ryan and Nigel Vagana also spoke powerfully to both parents and players.
This year we again thank the Referees for their support in officiating at Championships. The experience of Steven Clark and John Topp was invaluable in providing advice and professional development to the young referees, selected on merit, who made it to this level on the refereeing pathway.
At both Championships we were able to take advantage of the continued support of John Coates, Executive Manager NSWRL, whose wisdom and insight are invaluable. Thanks, too, to previous President Bruce Wallace, who volunteered assistance and expert advice at both Championships.
Our 2014 Championships will again see us taking the game away from main city venues, with the 15 Years Championships, hosted jointly by NSWCHS and NSWCIS, to be held in Tamworth, and the 18 Years, hosted by CAS, in Darwin.
Congratulations to long serving Council member and former Australian Schoolboys coach Mark Greer on the well deserved accolade of the award of life membership of our association. Mark’s contributions over the years are highly valued by Council, as is his work for ACT Schools Rugby League.
We are indebted to our sponsors, whose generosity allows us to further contribute to the experience of the boys playing the game. This applies especially to our long term gear sponsor, Classic, through the auspices of Tony Magnus, Jim Brennan and Simon Keith. The message from the Department of Health and Ageing, “Don’t let drugs destroy your future”, marries so well with our philosophy, and thus is a valued sponsorship. Similarly, the Australian Training Company’s sponsorship is appreciated because of our common values.
My thanks go to all members of ASSRL Council for their continued efforts in ensuring that as many school students as possible get to play the greatest game of all.
My special thanks go to my fellow Executive members, whose expertise, skills and experience are outstanding, and matched only by their unstinting commitment to the cause. Their work is always impressive, and valued highly by everyone who knows the job they do. Thank you to Secretary Phil Beecher, Treasurer Brian Pearson and Events Co-Ordinator Steve Duclos for the superb job each of you has done again this year. In typical style, having just finished this year’s events, they are currently planning the 2014 end of year tour for Australian Schoolboys to England and France. It should be another great experience.
Caringbah High School