FITNESS and basic skills were the order of the day for 60 of the Northern Inland’s most talented rugby players.
The second squad session of the newly-formed ARU Junior Gold program was held in Armidale on Sunday for both U15s and U17s.
The boys were put through their paces on TAS’s Wakefield by a team of high-performance coaches headed up by Andrew Verell (17s) and Gus Comi (15s).
Basic skills, tackle and breakdown contests, and pod running were just some of the drills the boys were working on.
“Individual roles and roles as a unit are what we are working on today, decision-making,” Verrell said.
“Our primary role is to develop and identify talent at a young age and work with that.
“It’s getting kids ready to move to that next level.”
The squads will alternate their training grounds between Tamworth and Armidale every fortnight, but also run satellite training runs in individual towns each week.
The smaller sessions are held in Tamworth, Armidale, Scone, Inverell, Narrabri and Gunnedah and also incorporate some players not in the Gold squads.
“There are spots open for more kids to join the squad if we see some potential,” Comi said.
The program is universal across Australia, with all squads working on the exact same skills and exercises.
There is also room for the coaches to have their individual inputl.
“At the moment we are skills-oriented and we move into team and game-based training early next year,” Verrell said.
“The ARU policy is that every kid gets to start in at least one game. It is a great pathway to take that next step and be ready for the season.
“The best thing about this year is they get to play games and not just train.”
The two squads will play games in the inaugural Junior Gold Cup in February, which is a national competition.
The entire program consists of 24 squads in both age groups, with the aim of developing grassroots rugby Australia-wide.
The training program and the Junior Gold Cup are both completed before the club season starts.