In 2022, the pathway for regionally based junior and senior Rugby players will align with players from U13s through to senior men and women set to converge on Toowoomba this weekend for the Queensland Country Championships.
The Queensland Country pathway for senior men and women, as well as U19s, has seen players represent their region before progressing to either a South, Central or North Queensland team, from which Queensland Country representative teams are selected.
This year, rather than the previous Queensland Junior State Championships model, regionally based juniors are following the same pathway as their senior compatriots, with North Queensland, Central Queensland and South Queensland teams set to go head-to-head in U13, U14 and U16s boys age groups, as well as U15s girls.
Queensland Country Rugby Union (QCRU) president Rod Hohn said: “We saw an opportunity at the end of covid to restructure Country Rugby and provide a pathway for both juniors and seniors.
“We knew it would be a big task, but we wanted to have a combined format so junior players can see Queensland Country Heelers and Orchids in action and aspire to make those teams.
“It’s exciting, we’ve integrated juniors under the County banner and are showing a clear pathway for juniors to see what their Rugby aspirations could lead to. We have also invited BJRU (Brisbane Junior Rugby Union) and Subbies (Queensland Suburban) to compete, providing variety and an option to play against our City cousins.
“We’re capturing juniors all the way from Cairns down to the Gold Coast and out West to places such as Goondiwindi and Condamine.”
Over the past few months, three lead up tournaments have taken place across Queensland, with North Queensland teams converging on Cairns, Central Queensland teams in Rockhampton and South Queensland on the Sunshine Coast, with representative teams selected across the age divisions from each tournament.
“The amount of people we had attend in Cairns, Rockhampton and the Sunshine Coast saw 1500-2000 people at each event, we also had a massive uptake on the streaming of the tournaments, something which will be part of this weekend’s games.
“A positive has also been the introduction of the U15s Girls competition and the continued growth of the Women’s XVs competitions, we’ve gone into areas where Rugby League has been successful and are now seeing players come across and have a go at Women’s XVs.”
The competition will also see Country referees from various competitions around the state officiating each game, providing further pathway opportunities for our regionally based referees.
Downs Rugby are the hosts of the event, and the region is a fitting location for the first ever Queensland Country Championships.
“The Darling Downs was the birthplace of Queensland Country Rugby in 1964, and Rugby has been played in the region since 1887,” said Hohn.
“Thanks to Downs Rugby for hosting and to our two venues – Toowoomba Grammar School and Clive Berghofer Stadium.”
With Games set to take place across Friday, Saturday and Sunday, representative teams in each age division will be selected.
The junior Country teams will play their City counterparts next Wednesday, 6 July, at Clive Berghofer Stadium, while the senior Queensland Country Heelers, Orchids and U19s will all play in representative matches in September. The U16s boys Queensland Country team will also compete in the Emerging Reds Cup, providing opportunities for regionally based players to push for selection in the Reds Academy.
With the Country Rugby community rocked by the passing of long serving President Greg Dodd in 2021, ‘Doddy’ will be remembered at the tournament with the introduction of the Greg Dodd Memorial Medal, which will be presented to the senior men’s player of the tournament by close family members of Greg.
For match information for each age division, head to https://qld.rugby/country-championships. For information regarding the live streaming of matches during the tournament, follow Queensland Country Rugby Union on Facebook.