NRL: Under 20s competition to be scrapped

Bunty Afoa in action for the Junior Warriors in 2014. Photo / Photosport
Bunty Afoa in action for the Junior Warriors in 2014. Photo / Photosport

The NRL's under-20s competition will be scrapped at the end of next year, Australian Rugby League Commission chairman John Grant has confirmed.

The youth competition has been on borrowed time since former NRL head of strategy Shane Richardson's whole-of-game review last year but there was speculation it may continue beyond 2017 in some capacity.

Instead, statewide under-20s competitions will be rolled out in NSW and Queensland, while the NSW and Queensland Cups will be expanded to take on an "elevated" role in rugby league's development pathway, Grant said.

"They'll be more on television, there's going to be more clubs in the competition and there's going to be stronger connections through to the NRL clubs to make sure we get players from the NRL who aren't playing for their team each weekend to come back into the tier two competition," Grant told reporters in Brisbane on Friday.

The national under-20s competition has been plagued by concerns it is not an adequate finishing school and puts undue pressure on young players.

Grant defended the ARL Commission's attempts to limit the earning capacity of NRL rookies as negotiations continue over a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Rugby League Players' Association is philosophically opposed to capping salaries but Grant said it was a sensible way to fix to a clear problem.

"The fact is we take young men in our game away from their homes too early, we put them into intensive competitions, we ask too much of them and quite frankly we've had some disastrous outcomes," he said.

"That's all about giving them expectations beyond what is reasonable at the time and frankly paying them too much money will do that.

"We understand the RLPA's situation and we've got an obligation to negotiate with the RLPA around these sort of things. But by the same token, we're really trying to respond to the issues we've got."

Meanwhile, Grant indicated a name change may be on the cards for the NSW and Queensland Cups as their current monikers don't "ring true" given the level of current and future international involvement.

The Papua New Guinea Hunters have played in the Queensland Cup since 2014 while the entry of a Fijian team into the NSW Cup is expected to be approved in the coming weeks.

"What it does for PNG is fantastic, rugby league is their national sport and it really means something to them. It's the same with Fiji," Grant said.

"We have players in our NRL competition that come from all of those places and we've got to make sure they've got local rugby league that they can see that's at the elite level."

- AAP

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 10 Dec 2016 23:24:10 Processing Time: 429ms