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BOP Rugby launch youth development programme

File Image. Daniel Hines.

The Bay of Plenty Rugby Union is launching a new initiative to encourage more teenage rugby players, both boys and girls into a youth development programme that excites them and grows them as people.

BOP Rugby Union is looking to run a Sub Union Youth Development Programme, which will culminate in 12 teams, at under 16 and under 18 boys and girls, representing the three sub unions, Eastern Bay, Central Bay and Western Bay, coming together to play in a series of games during the term two school holidays on Thursday, July 22, and Friday July 23.

“In 2019, when the Northern Region Rugby Council ended under 13 weight restricted representative rugby, the first opportunity for teenagers to be talent identified shifted to the under 16 age group,” says a BOP Rugby statement.

“With rugby being a late development sport due to the differing rates at which boys and girls physically and mentally develop, shifting the starting point for when performance pathways start identifying potential talent from 13 to 16 made perfect sense.”

Neighbouring heartland unions, Ngati Porou East Coast, Poverty Bay, Thames Valley and King Country, have also been invited to participate in any or all of the age groups and boys/girls sections.

“This new initiative becomes the new way of developing our rangatahi and tamariki, it broadens the talent pool and it aligns perfectly with where we are heading with the new educational pathway trust and recruitment agency that the union has just established,” says Bay of Plenty Rugby’s pathways and experiences manager Ati Aaifou-Olive explains.

“Historically, we’ve selected a pinnacle under 16’s boys’ and girls’ teams to compete in a Northern Region’s led representative campaign during either the term two or term three school holidays.

“That model restricted the number of participants to squads of 25, 50 in total, limiting the number of athletes that could be developed.

“This new model, grows the number of athletes being developed from 50 to 300 per age group.”
The programme will launch in three stages:
Stage one; ‘Local Leaders Recruitment Campaign’, commencing Monday, April 12, stage two;  ‘Call For Players Campaign’ which will begin Monday, April 26, and stage three; ‘Promote the Sub Union Youth Development Two Day Tournament’ from Monday, June 14.

Leadership roles expressions of interest are now open online here.

BOP Rugby Union will be seeking applications for coaches, managers, physiotherapists & strength and conditioning coaches and state they are looking for local leaders to fill the roles in stage one.

A muster day for stage two will take place on Sunday, June 20, before promotion of the tournament can begin.

“Once the teams have assembled and start their preparation, the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union will start promoting the two-day tournament,” says Ati. “We want to ensure we make the event one that the players can look back on with fond memories.

“A former Steamers player still takes great joy in telling me how excited he was to represent Eastern Bay and we want to bring this passion for our sub union jersey back.” 

The Chiefs Rugby Club is currently in talks with all the Chief’s Provincial Unions; Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Thames Valley, Taranaki, Counties Manukau and King Country, and New Zealand Rugby with the view of running a two-day Chiefs Region Provincial Unions U16’s Tournament during the term three school holidays for both boys and girls.

If this was to go ahead, the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union would potentially send two under 16 boys teams to this event instead of one team if it aligns with their “values around broadening the depth of the potential talent pool and provided more development opportunities.”

For the under 16 girls, the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union has yet to decide how and in what form they will  participate in this development opportunity.

“It would depend on the success of our own Sub Union Rugby Youth Development programme.”

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