CQ Junior Country Muster raises local union profile
RUGBY UNION: Last weekend's Central Queensland Junior Country Muster showcased a level of skill never seen in this competition before.
Teams from across Capricornia including Brothers, Brahmans, Yeppoon, Frenchville, Capricorn Coast, Colts went up against eight sub region teams including the Central Highlands, Mackay and the Whitsundays, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Biloela.
Despite an impromptu change of venue leading up to the Central Queensland Junior Country Muster, St Brendan's College pulled out all the stops for the two-day event.
The weekend was dubbed as one of the most difficult Bush Rangers selections yet.
Cap Coast Crocs Junior Rugby Coordinator, Vanessa Rauluni said the talent was "extremely strong across the board".
The Bushrangers Pathway Program, run by Junior Rugby Coordinator Kourtney Watene, Onehunga Mata'uiau and former rugby international and Queensland Reds player, Jacob Rauluni, has been rolled out across Central Queensland for junior rugby union teams since November last year.
"These pathway sessions are designed to strengthen the boys are they are going into the trials and so they are going in the State Championships much stronger," Rauluni said.
"That higher standard was evident over the weekend.
"It was tough to pick a team for the State Championships.
"Country rugby is the backbone of rugby and we need to support that. That's what this weekend was about."
A number of elite rugby union names attended the weekend, including Queensland Red's Captain, Samu Kerevi, and former Wallabies player, Brendan Cannon.
Kerevi worked with the junior players over the weekend and was in the region to "life the profile of rugby union".
Watene, said Kerevi watched a number of the U16s games and said he could see a handful of the players "going all the way".
"He encouraged all the kids to work," Watene said.
"He said you don't get nothing for nothing and you've got to put the effort in.
"Cannon was here running a story for Fox Sports on Country Rugby and was also raising the profile.
"He's realised this is what Country Rugby is all about."
To Watene, having such prominent rugby union names attending the event was inspiring for the young, aspiring athletes.
"Kids that watch rugby union see Brendan and Samu on the field as as captain of the state... as good role models," Watene said.
"Samu also came from humble beginnings... it shows them where they could go.
"Rugby Union in the area is on the rise and we just want to get more kids playing, which is the goal of the [pathway program]."
Watene said the program has "lifted the profile of the game".
"Usually the Rockhampton and Yeppoon teams would dominate the state selections, but this year it was 50/50 with other regions," he said.
"The basic pass and tackles at those sessions really has the kids doing those basic things right and has them headed in the right direction."
The State Championships will be run in Brisbane in a four-day tournament at the start of July, under the facilitation of the Queensland Reds.
A number of "super rugby teams" will be attending the event and under the guidance of the Reds, the "tipping scale" for the U15-16 age bracket, will determine the future careers of the junior players.
"Those kids are deciding what they're going to do and if they want to turn it into a career," Watene said.
"That's why the Reds and other super rugby teams come to these States.
"They get these kids ready to do their best and knock over some Brisbane teams."
The U12-14s will also have a chance for "more development", and will be "finding their feet" at the State Championships.
On Tuesday, union stars, David Campese, Tim Horan and Morgan Turamui will visit Rockhampton Grammar School and Frenchville State School to run union sessions with students.