Group Three Junior League happy with age divisions

GROUP Three Junior Rugby League president Warren Blissett doesn’t believe there is a real case for weight-for-age to replace age competitions in this area.

Mr Blissett was commenting on calls to replace age competitions with those based on weight in NSW junior league. A column by Russell Crowe in the city media last month reignited the debate.

Group Three Junior League has always played age divisions. Mr Blisssett, who took over from the long serving Kevin Hardy as president at the league at last year’s annual meeting, believes the status quo should remain. Mr Hardy remains involved as vice president.

“I think these things should be taken on a case-by-case basis,’’ Mr Blissett said.

“In some areas – like Penrith – where there's a strong representation of Pacific Island players, who develop physically quickly, there would be a case,’’ he said.

However, Mr Blisssett insists it isn’t a real problem in Group Three.

“Of course you do get bigger kids, but generally there isn’t the disparity here in our age divisions,’’ he said.

He added that Group Three junior and senior league has the under 16.5 and 18.5 competitions in place, where players who turn 16 or 18 after June 30 can stay in those competitions a further 12 months. He believes this acts as a buffer to help players stay in the age divisions before they are physically ready to move into the next grade, whether that be under 18s or senior football.

“That seems to be working,’’ he said.

Mr Blissett said Group Three will be working closely with Dave Hamilton, who has been appointed as the community engagement sports office for the East Coast Region, to improve the standard of coaching in the area, particularly in the ages from under 13s up. This is where players usually drop out of the game.

Hamilton will be working with Groups Three, Two, One and 18.

“We’re looking to improve the game day experience for players, coaches and of course, parents,’’ Mr Blissett said.

Hamilton has previously worked with NRL clubs Canberra and the Gold Coast in high performance and development and recruitment roles, while he has also coached NSW under 18s and the Australian Junior Kangaroos. He has ties with this area, having coached the Old Bar Pirates, guiding the club to the premiership in what was then the Group Three Saturday League in 1994.

The annual Group Three gala day for divisions from under 10s to 16s will be at Taree Recreation Centre on Sunday April 8. The carnival for younger divisions will be held at Port Macquarie later this month.