Fraser Coast juniors can follow pathway to their NRL dream

THE Fraser Coast's rugby league community has longed for their juniors to have a direct pathway to the NRL.

Fraser Coast Chronicle exclusively revealed the "Yellow Brick Road" finally existed, as a long-running plan to establish a connection between the Fraser Coast and Sunshine Coast Falcons was finally launched.

The Intrust Super Club's existing relationship with Melbourne Storm means it is a feeder club to the NRL club, and the Falcons Fraser Coast Development Squad means local juniors now have a legitimate link to Australia's highest level of rugby league.

Now the first squad has been named and formally notified by NRL game development officer Scott Zahra and Hervey Bay Seagulls coach Tye Ingebrigtsen, it is time for the region's most promising footballers to start their journey.

"It's a yellow brick road," Zahra said. "We can now get them to the Sunny Coast and from there they can go to Melbourne.

"If we could just get one of those kids into the Falcons' Colts team it will be great."

The development squad was open to 20 Fraser Coast-based players aged 16- to 18-years-old, as well as five promising South Burnett footballers.

The squad was expanded to 27 players, but each was elected in line with strict criteria that covered not only their skill and natural talent, but attitude and dedication.

Zahra discovered it was not all about the kids however, as many parents have already been in touch to find out how they can join the program.

"There might be other players with better skill but their attitude might not be up to standard," Zahra said.

"We've got a good spread of players from across the region.

"A lot of the kids we've spoken to are looking forward it, but importantly it's brought some of those parents back to the game.

"One of the kids was deciding whether or not they wanted to keep playing footy but we've managed to get him back to the game through this squad."

The squad will travel to the Falcons' base at Sunshine Coast Stadium in February, which will coincide with the Storm's trial match against Wests Tigers.

It is understood the players will not only be able to tour the facilities and get a close look at how the NRL's elite players prepare, but will also be their formal introduction to the squad.

Falcons' staff will inform players of what is expected of them in the squad and get an outline of the year's activities.

"As long as the kids know they don't have to make it at 15," Zahra said.

"They will train once a month together and the Falcons will give them everything to support. From there it is up to the player."

Zahra highlighted how players can take their first steps on the road from under-13 and U14 level following the relaunch of the Fraser Coast Crushers.

"Now they can see a real pathway to professional footy," Zahra said.

"For our district it's a massive win - we've never had anything like this before."

The Squad

Hervey Bay Seagulls: Lachie Jackson, Roger Rainbow, Jayden McCloskey, Sam McKey, Laikyn Jung, Derby Green, Sam Ballini, Ben Hudson, William Walthall, Kobi Page.

Wallaroos: Joe Alberts, Jesse James, Kodi McConnell, Will Tanwan, Ryan Fernnie, Jesse Robertson

Brothers Maryborough: Locky Gordon, Tahnee McDowell, Ryan Gauld, Zac Charteris

Kingaroy: Kirby Rhubasahn, Mitchell Case, Adam Geiger, Logan Bayliss-Brow

Cherbourg: Erroll Simpson, Peter Langton, Barry Tapau