Just thinking about our pathways program, we seem to finally abandoned the idea of producing a team of superstars from the junior ranks? Though credit that they are still working on it.
But looking back, we have had some very good players come through but just couldn’t keep them or recognise there talents: Teddy, Woods, Moses, JAC to name a few.
It was only a few seasons ago that they won the reserve grade comp, but not much has come from that.
It just doesn’t seem that too many are coming through anymore and they seem to be spending a lot more time and money on this?
While we have finally went to market and brought good players (thank heavens) it is always good to see juniors come through to the top.
TBH, I don’t follow it as much as I should, but does anyone know of any players who might be the next superstar?
Im a big Warriors fan but im involved in the Wests Junior Comp in Campbelltown. I do a bit for the Clubs juniors but have an ear to the ground and have watched heaps of Wests this year in Harold Matts and SG Ball.
I was asked recently how the NRL could payback the Warriors for them helping keep the comp going during covid. Here is a a bit i wrote on the Warriors forum
I have been and are still involved in junior Footy here in South West Sydney for the last 3-4 years. In the Wests Tigers District. This season ive done a bit of work for the Wests Juniors (club teams not reps) so ive seen 1st hand how important it is to have good systems in place to get good development in Juniors.
With the Warriors having a SG ball side (U19s) entered is 10000000000% a step in the right direction. This is the just the start. They need to get a Harold Matthews team (U17s) over here as well. With those 2 sides as well as a Jersey Flegg side (U21s) then the Warriors will have a hardened experianced Junior system which we will see the fruits in about 4-5 years.
For an example the Tigers have the following rep sides in
Andrew Johns Cup U16s
- They play in a 10 team competition against regional NSW Rep sides. I watched all of the Tigers 16s games. The team is mostly Pacific Island/Kiwi boys with a lot of strength and Power. Most of the other sides are predominantly Aussie kids. Tall and a bit lanky but have excellent tackle techniques and line runners. The Tigers had a squad of around 25-26 players with 17 suiting up for gameday plus an 18th man and a 19th and 20th man on standby. The other members of the squad that were not required on gameday were sent out to Penrith who had a similar setup where they had an U16 emerging players team (forget what it was called) where they played some Country NSW teams and had an agreement to take the squad members from the Tigers 16s that were not named but would get them game time somewhere else. So every player played every week.
Harold Matthews U17s
- They were called the Western Suburbs Magpies as Balmain Tigers also had a Harold Matts side. This Comp is unbelievable. The talent, the footy IQ, the skill, the size, the block runners, the speed everything about these kids is unreal because they are after all just kids. They all go to School. I watched about 8 rounds of the Magpies Harold Matts team. They won the Grand Final and went through the Comp undefeated. This is the future of Wests Tigers BUT NOT FOR ANOTHER 5-6 YEARS!!!!
Laurie Daley Cup U18s
- Exactly the same as AJ U16s. They play the same teams and travel with the 16s. The only difference is they have a smaller squad and dont farm out players that dont play on Gameday. Sometimes the kids that dont get picked for Harold Matts will play for the 18s.
SG Ball U19s
- Same as Harold Matts. Again the talent in the SG Ball sides from every club is next level. This year the Magpies team struggled as they are a younger team. They only won 2 drew 2 and lost 4. The majority of that team was in the Magpies Harold Matts team last season. So the expectations were for them to get a taste for the faster and bigger opponants they would face then push for top 4 next season.
Jersey Flegg U21s
- Struggled as well as they were the young after playing U19s last season
So with all of these teams they had trials on the 8th October. Teams were picked a week later on the 14th with training starting 2 days later on the 16th. I went to the trials last year and to a couple of the trainings and they are high intensity, skill focused where they held accountable for the littlest indiscretions. From now till the new year its fitness and skills with no contact. They will get tested after the Xmas break and the expectations are they will have to have maintained a good level of fitness and strength. After that its maintaining the fitness then ripping into the contact and getting the moves right for the 1st game in February. This year i seen a young kid who was a Prop. Probably the best prop in the U16s Grade for club footy. Would always make great metres and just folded kids in defence but couldnt meet the fitness standards required. Great kid to. The only fault id give the Tigers is that i didnt see any kind of mentors around for those side of things. A young Polynesian Kid from a big family who kills it on the field but eats big meals at home, no time to do extras as he has to look after younger siblings etc. Those mentors are critical for our young Polynesian players close to being in the frame for a professional career. But on game days i seen Benji, Kimmorley, Madge McGuire, Tamou down there watching and talking to the young boys. Keeping them composed but reminding them of their jobs that they had to do. When i watched them play Balmain, Paul Sironan was the Mentor for them. Sheesh he is massive but he had such an aura around the Balmain kids. 2 of them were laughing a little to loud and he just went over and said make sure you maintain your fluid levels and keep going to the toilet lol. And they did. Just kept drinking their water and started focusing again.
All my life in Christchurch and now in Sydney ive seen 100s and 100s of juniors running around. But in the last 12 months ive seen so many in the Tigers set up that going to go all the way. The kids out here are unbelievable. Ive watched a bit of junior footy in the Bulldogs District where they have lost a lot of juniors for whatever reasons and seem to be rebuilding their Junior resources. Parramatta Juniors last year only had 3 teams in their U15 Gold comp. (instead of having A and B grades NSWRL have Gold Silver and Bronze) So they came and played out here in the Tigers Comp for a couple of weeks before Covid shut down everything and their teams were really really good. However only having 3 Gold teams is a concern. Dragons Juniors system seems to be a step below as well but they have the advantage like Wests that they amalgamate with Illawarra for Senior Footy.
Penrith District are just on a whole different level. They are the cream of the crop. Watched their SG Ball team play a couple of games. WOW. I read an article a couple of seasons ago where they had 72 Girls only teams across their Juniors.
The last couple of years Wests have really invested in their Juniors and are relying on local juniors to develop and keep on developing. I think there was only 1 from the Harold Matts team that wasnt a local. It showed to when he played a couple of games.
The Warriors could use the Tigers blue print as a set up of where they need to be going forward. But the Warriors need some huge mentors. Some big name figures that can keep the kids grounded and focused
The down side to this is Footy is not fun anymore for these kids.
Training 3 days a week in the middle of summer. Having to turn up no matter what. If you have an injury to your arm or shoulder then you are racking up the kms on the bike, if you have a sore leg then you are doing upper body workouts. Most of the Harold Matts team are contracted. I know 3 or 4 from the U16s had contracts to the tigers as well. Most are for 5k. The top kids in Harold Matts maybe around 12-15k. That is mostly to cover MRIs or Physio visits etc. The top kids taste a huge amount of footy for the year, for example and ill name 2 of the best in Wests Harold Matts team from 2022 Kit Laualiili and Jordan Miller.
They came back from Xmas and New Year in 2022 and straight into training for the Harold Matts 2022 campaign. Their first game was 5th Feb. Their Grand Final was 30th April. They then have to be medically cleared to be released back to their clubs which have already started their seasons. Their Grand Final was 4th September. During the year they played for their School teams in the NSW Combined Schools Comp which is a midweek comp consisting of about 6 games. Then semi and Final. Also during the year they have the NSW zoned comp for Schools so there is another 4-5 games. At the end of that they were facing selection for the Australian Schoolboys tour of Fiji but i dont think they made it. On the 2nd of October Kit played for NSW Fiji U18s against NSW Maori U18. a week after that he had trials for Wests SG Ball team which he sat out as he is already contracted. From there he has been training for the 2023 campaign.
Thats 52 weeks of footy. Im sure he had a week off here and there but hes just turned 17 and he has footy every week of the year. Can the Warriors drum these work ethics into our kids in Auckland????
Thats the 64 million dollar question