THE ARMIDALE School will be recognised as a national training centre for rugby under a unique partnership with Australian Rugby that was launched this week.
The ARU and TAS have united to provide facilities and specialist training to develop the on and off-field rugby skills of 15 to18-year-old boys in the North West and New England regions who have talent, character and commitment as part of the Junior Gold program.
Under the agreement the ARU will provide high-performance staff to support the further development of rugby at TAS, which will be promoted as a national training centre for aspiring and talented young players.
Facilities at the University of New England will also be utilised for the Junior Gold Program, and training also conducted at satellite venues in Tamworth, Moree and Inverell.
TAS’s partnership with the ARU is the first in Australia at this level and provides access to national program coaching models used across the 23 recognised Junior Gold Program centres in Australia.
The Junior Gold Program involves 800 players and 60 volunteer coaches nationally and is conducted between November and March, supporting the long-term development of players over the off and pre-season.
ARU Talent Development Manager Ben Whitaker said whilst the ultimate aim of the program was to build the Wallabies and National Sevens teams of the future, it focused on developing access and opportunities for players across Australia who will engage with the sport and the community well past their formal involvement in the program.
“It is this key aim that we believe aligns well with the educational and developmental aims of quality schools and organisations, and the ARU believes TAS will be an ideal partner to provide these opportunities in the region,” he said.
TAS headmaster Murray Guest said the partnership was an exciting one for both TAS and the ARU.
“The popularity of rugby is growing around the world, and it is a game also renowned for developing leadership amongst those who play it.
“ TAS has a rich rugby history and to be able to provide talented young players with these opportunities in partnership with the ARU is a great privilege,” he said.
On hand to lend his support was former TAS student Sam Payne, who played seven Test matches for the Wallabies.
“We didn’t have a program like this when I was playing schoolboy rugby and it’s a great opportunity to develop the talents of the boys so they have a much greater chance to be selected to play club rugby in Sydney, with facilities just as good as in the city,” he said.
The Junior Gold Squad – almost half of whom are students at TAS – was inducted at the school last month.