Interchanges in junior rugby league will be limited from next year.
Interchanges in junior rugby league will be limited from next year. Franca Tigani

Giants face extinction

THE 100 kilogram junior rugby league giant could become extinct when limited interchange is introduced to underage football for the first time this season.

The Ipswich Junior Rugby League will join Brisbane and the Gold Coast in trialling a six interchange per match competition this season for under-13 through to under-16 division one grades.

This is a dramatic change from the unlimited interchange system which had been in place for years and the majority of junior coaches are opposed to the rule, fearing it could lead to a reduction in player numbers.

The decision was made by the South East Queensland division of Queensland Rugby League.

Former Ipswich Jets Queensland Cup coach Gary Greinke, who currently mentors Centenary under-14 teams, said the rule would make an enormous difference.

He said he was sick of seeing larger players dominate games solely because of their size.

“This will be a great rule because at the moment you have giants running over everyone and then having a break then coming back on, they should have to be fit and skilful,” Greinke said.

“At the moment they don't have to work on their fitness and skills and then they make rep teams and are found out.”

The junior league bench will also shrink with coaches now only allowed four replacements, down from six.

The rule changes are designed to ensure halfbacks and hookers have a greater role in the game and prevent bigger players dominating the match.

Springfield Panthers under-18 coach Fai Sami said the rule would drastically improve the ability of young Polynesian players.

“The main issue with the Polynesian boys is they're not fit enough,” Sami said.

“I'm a Pacific Islander myself and I see it too often, big young guys who look great in local league but can't handle the pace when they make the next step.

“This will help them not harm them.”

But Norths Tigers junior president Craig Stevenson,said it was absurd that junior football would have less interchanges than the NRL.

“I don't know where they get their research from because I can't see how this decision makes sense,” Stevenson said

“We have to toe the party line, but I think having so few interchanges is not appropriate for junior league.

“The 100 kilogram 14-year-olds will probably drop back to the second grade where perhaps the players are less equipped to handle them.”

IJRL president Brendan Bowers said he supported the move.

“For too long the halfbacks and hookers have been getting belted by big guys who can rotate off the bench all match,” Bowers said.

“There are concerns about bigger kids who may struggle fitness wise dropping out of the game, but it's only for the first division and if you are not prepared to work harder you probably don't belong in the first division anyway.

“It was trialled down the Gold Coast last year and it was a success. It's only a one season trial and we will assess whether it worked at the end of this year.”

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