The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys and its three feeder clubs have today announced a landmark agreement which provides a clear pathway to the National Rugby League for juniors from the region.
The five-year agreement was signed off by the Cowboys, the Mackay Cutters, the Northern Pride (Cairns) and the Townsville Blackhawks following recent discussions between the four organisations.
The new deal formalises the progression for NQ juniors from their local club competitions to the Queensland Cup age group set-ups in their home regions, through to senior Q-Cup and on to the NRL with the North Queensland Cowboys.
“This is a significant agreement and there is a clear pathway for young players from the regions to progress with their rugby league,” Cowboys General Manager – Football Peter Parr said.
“Through the investment the Cowboys and the feeder clubs have made to fine-tuning and expanding this pathways system, a young player can live and play footy in his home region, coming through the ranks as he works towards playing NRL for the Cowboys.
“To have all three clubs agree to enter into a five-year term with us shows that the relationship is working between the clubs and that there’s unity between the feeder systems and the Cowboys.”
With the National Youth Competition now being replaced by state-based age group comps aligned with the Queensland Cup structure, the timing of the new agreement was vital as the Blackhawks, Pride and Cutters work hard in the off-season to set up expanded programs.
“We’ve all worked extremely hard on this agreement and we’re proud of our association with the Cowboys and that we can play a part of helping develop junior talent through this pathways system,” Blackhawks Football Operations Manager Adrian Thomson said.
“It was vital we were on the same page with our pathways philosophies during this year of transition from the old NYC and heading into the future.”
Pride CEO Greg Dowling said the longevity of the agreement meant that the feeder clubs could best plan for the future.
“It’s fantastic that a talented kid from our region has such a distinct footy pathway up through the tiers, and to have that overarching support from the Cowboys is hugely comforting,” Dowling said.
Cutters CEO Troy Rovelli said his coaching and football operations staff were well advanced in preparation for next season. The experienced football administrator was excited about how the new deal would benefit emerging juniors from Mackay and surrounds.
“We can now go to the junior club competition in our region and say with confidence that if you’re good enough and committed enough, there’s real, concrete opportunities there for you to become an elite player without leaving your home region,” Rovelli said.
Parr praised the three feeder clubs for their combined diligence and professionalism in getting the agreement through.
“This new structure gives us a clearer pathway for players on what we been able to do previously, and that’s due to all three clubs coming together on the one agreement.” he said.
“There was a real desire here by everyone involved in these negotiations to do the right thing by rugby league in North Queensland.
“We’re really happy with how our affiliated clubs are being run.”
All three feeder clubs are in the process of finalising coaching and support staff for their under-18 and under-20s teams playing in new-look state competitions.
Stephen Sheppard (Cutters), Ty Williams (Pride) and Kristian Woolf (Blackhawks) continue as head coaches of their respective senior Queensland Cup teams, with the usual allocation system of NRL-contracted Cowboys continuing.