Why Ipswich's junior footy keeps on growing
WITH about 3500 players lacing up their boots in 200 teams this weekend, Rugby League Ipswich chairman David Nugent has every reason to be positive about the new junior season.
While there's always challenges dealing with annual gradings, Nugent is excited to see Ipswich and the greater region moving forward in rugby league.
Teams from under 6 to under 17 open their new seasons tonight and tomorrow at various venues from Ipswich's heartland to country centres.
"There's been solid growth (of about five percent),'' Nugent said.
He said population growth around Ipswich had helped RLI continue to attract more youngsters to the game.
Juniors will play in age divisions from under 6 to under 12 for fun, with no points on offer. They mainly play on Saturday mornings.
Teams in under 12, 13, 14 and 17 will be involved in Premier League and Development League competitions.
The under 15 competition will be one series this season.
The major hub of 13-17 year games will be on Friday nights.
"We had the gradings before Easter and then we go into the season proper this weekend,'' he said.
"We just want fun and safe and enjoyable football.''
Nugent is confident having two separate competitions for the older kids will promote development and provide opportunities for better players to challenge themselves.
He's particularly pleased to see clubs like West End on the rise. The club is fielding two under 17 teams this season.
In his long association with junior footy, Nugent can't recall the Bulldogs having two sides in that important age group.
That caters for players wanting to learn the game and more experienced footballers keen to improve their skills "moving up and down'' between the Development and Premier League competitions during the season.
West End's achievement comes as powerful clubs like Springfield, Norths, Goodna, Brothers, Redbank Plains and Swifts continue to support the competition, along with a number of loyal country clubs including Laidley, Lowood, Fassifern, Rosewood and the Brisbane Valley.
"We're trying to stretch a few clubs to put two teams in Premier League if they've got sufficient numbers,'' he said.
"There are some bigger clubs that have three teams and if you put two with the Development competition and one in Premier League, it doesn't really challenge our kids.
"We're trying to get them to aspire to be the best footballers they can be.''
Nugent appreciates clubs dealing with the "tyranny of distance'', giving youngsters from areas like Esk, Toogoolawah, Fernvale and Coominya an opportunity to play in an established city competition.
Having country clubs like Rosewood added to the senior competition is providing better pathways for junior players.
"Those kids can now aspire to play for Rosewood right through until they are 45 years of age or whatnot,'' Nugent said.
While junior boys across the grades prepare for another exciting season of footy, Nugent is also delighted to see growing support for girls' teams.
Brothers, West End, Redbank Plains, Goodna and Fassifern are entering teams in this year's girls-only SEQ competition that also kicks off this weekend.
The first round is at West End tomorrow.
"That's been growing at an astronomical rate really,'' Nugent said.