THE NSW Rugby League will launch their first fully-fledged weight and age division competitions this month in a bid to keep players of all sizes in the sport.
After a pilot program last year which encompassed various forms of the sport, 21 competitions will be played across five Sydney districts for players between the ages of 10 and 12.
The issue is one which has hindered the growth of rugby league across junior age groups in recent years, given the weight and power discrepancies among young players.
Players will be grouped into weight categories in the four-month competitions, while adults will also be encouraged to play nine-a-side Friday night competitions in Penrith, Parramatta, Manly, Balmain and Western Suburbs.
The NSWRL hopes the competition will expand even further next year, while short-term plans are to keep the weight categories for pre and post-season competitions.
“The W8s program allows everyone to compete on an even playing field against opposition their own size,” NSWRL head of football Barrie-Jon Mather said.
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“This was a great success when NSWRL introduced its pilot programs last year and gives everyone an environment where they can compete and continue to play the game.
“We know that unevenness of competition and the time commitment of a long season are major factors why kids turn away from the game.”
The program also has the support of Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary, who played weight and age football as a teenager in New Zealand.
“After my first ever match it was hard to even fathom playing footy because the skill aspect was out of the game,” Cleary said.
“It was all about whoever could run the hardest and tackle the hardest.
“If you’re just getting smashed all the time it’s not much fun as a little bloke.”