50 boys and girls attended the first Friday evening’s rugby union tuition for under-14 players at Nabiac cricket ground and then 80 players on the second night last Friday.
“It’s really taking off. The momentum is splendid,” Forster Tuncurry club’s president, Damian Daczko, said of the Lower Mid North Coast Junior Rugby Union’s six-week program.
If any Doubting Thomas questioned the wisdom of establishing a nursery of young players as a stepping stone into senior rugby, a trip to Nabiac to watch the game’s next generation would have blown all delusions away.
Tanaka Gray, 11 years of age, a whisp of a lad of Australian-Filippino heritage, side-stepping and running with engaging speed, delivering passes with the skill of a fine half-back in the making.
Likewise, the boy in white head gear, Riley Schafer, drifted effortlessly through play, instinct directing him where to be, something impossible to coach, scything the legs from beneath the try-line bound player with an ankle-high tackle.
11-year-old Bailey Duffy is already running and passing with the confidence of an accomplished centre, his friend, Brody Coble, another destined for a good career.
Brody’s father, Mark Coble, was a first grade hooker for the Penrith Emus before a high-rise building accident saw him hang for half an hour by one leg. Yet, he still turned out for the Dolphins last year.
Who knows where these 80 youngsters will be in a decade’s time and what code they will play, if any?
At least they are learning the basics of rugby. If they continue developing their skills, they will have the option of playing socially, even professionally, travelling the world as rugby so temptingly offers.
One impatient lad questioned while the players were warming up with the first half hour’s drills: “Why are we not allowed to tackle!”
He came to earth soon enough.
In the following hour, touch rugby became contact and tackle rugby, nothing dangerous, but good, competitive football, gold jerseys against blue.
Praise, encouragement, correction and tutelage all flowed from the coaches, significantly so from Wallamba club’s Lee Sullivan, aided by the driving force of the scheme, Aaron Dodds and Gloucester’s Stuart Paynter.
Once again, the Gloucester Cockies club was prominent with Paynter, Michael Wooster and Jackie Peachey contributing, as well as Andy Paynter, captain of last winter’s Wallamba premiers.
Among other coaches were M.N.C. Zone director, Ron Rae, Ron McCarthy (Forster Tuncurry), Felicity George (Wauchope) and David Rush (Manning River).
Four Friday evenings remain, each program of one and a half hour’s duration, from 6 p.m.
Player registration is $45 with each player to receive a jumper at the program’s conclusion.
The North Coast’s development officer, Tom Davidson, was a splendid supervisor. Damian Daczko registered newcomers, including two holidaying youngsters from Tasmania.
Now, optimistically, all that remains is for the M.N.C. Executive Officer, Bob Wilson, to announce the launch of an Under-15 competition in the Lower M.N.C. area next winter. It is needed.