YOUNG central Queensland rugby players showing talent will no longer have to head down south, thanks to a new rugby academy launched in Rockhampton on Friday.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the Central Queensland Rugby Union and CQUniversity will nurture local talent and provide a pathway to professional levels.
“Having this academy means the players are better prepared as they go through the age ranks and up into the professional environment,” said CQ Rugby Union director of rugby, Steve Anderson.
The academy is envisaged to prevent the talent drain of teen stars to GPS schools and sandstone universities, as players will have local access to professional rugby facilitators and academic mentors.
“The players will have three-to-four years of the academy to gain the necessary tools to enter professional rugby, which is one of our key aims.”
Mr Anderson knows too well the extra effort it takes for a kid from the regions to break onto the professional stage.
Growing up in Springsure, he started out in league and – like current players - had to make it through the regional sides before he played professionally for 13-14 years with the Melbourne Stormers and Super League in England.
He transitioned to union and has been director of high performance for both the Scottish and Irish Rugby Unions, where he set up similar academies to strengthen the provinces and in turn the national teams.
“There is a strong link to rural and remote areas here with about 20-30 per cent of teams coming from regional and remote areas,” he said.
“When we select for the central Queensland team, we are looking from Rolleston, Clermont, Mackay and as far west as Longreach.”
Mr Anderson said as the partnership with the university matured, other sport-specific academy-led pathways would develop, including support for referees, sport medicine officials and club administrators.
Players selected for induction into the new academy will have access to CQUniversity training facilities, sports performance labs and sports scientists.
The university’s vice-chancellor Professor Scott Bowman said it was a world-class training facility with some of the country’s best sports scientists.
“That makes it good for kids not based in a city, like Rockhampton,” he said, adding that the university had a similar footprint to the CQ Rugby Union, which has sub-unions serving in the Central Highlands, western Queensland, Wide Bay and Capricornia.
While players will have access to sports science researchers from across the campus network, the researchers will in turn gain feedback data for research projects, such as ‘hydration studies’ that have already commenced on the CQ Brahmans representative squad.
“We’ll be encouraging and enabling players to strive for performance excellence along their education and career pathways, complementing previous CQUni partnerships with the sports of cycling, basketball and netball,” Professor Bowman said.