2017 has seen the development of some new and exciting pathways for our junior players through the affiliation with the Melbourne Rebels franchise.

The U16 opportunities tour was created to set up a pathway for our Junior players who do not have a national competition to play in, so that they could be made available to represent the Victorian U16 team in the National U16 tournament for Super Rugby Teams. Rugby Union SA selected and prepared an U16 team to travel to Melbourne to play against an U16 Barbarians Team from Victoria, selected from talented club players as part of their trials system for the U16 State team. This game was played on Monday 12 June 2017.

The U16s were well prepared with trials being held on 30 April, giving the team and management 6 weeks of training to ready themselves.

The players were up early on Saturday 10 June, meeting at the airport at 530am! The 7am flight to Melbourne was filled with excitement at both the U16 and U18 teams were travelling together to Melbourne. After checking in to the accommodation, it was time to head off to the test match to watch the Wallabies take on Fiji. The players enjoyed the experience and got to meet some players after the game! Dinner was at the trendy riverside restaurant overlooking the Yarra, and then finally to bed after a very long day.

Sunday morning after breakfast the teams had a training session in the local park, finishing touches for the game on Monday. And then the afternoon was spent at the National Sports Museum at the MCG where players were educated by displays before having some fun in the Game On area filled with sporting activities and challenges. Team managers were able to squeeze in some team building activities and games before dinner and a movie to relax the night before Monday’s games.

The bacon and eggs would have been terrified on Monday morning with the energy and excitement which filled the room as the players emerged from a good night’s rest, fired up for a day of rugby ahead!

The U16 team watched the U18s play first and had to hide from a downpour just before their warm up began. The players looked switched on and focused right from the first word from the coaches and seemed keen for the game ahead.

The skies cleared in time for kick off and SA were receiving the ball, a clean take and set up before starting to run the ball from just inside their half. Just a few minutes later SA scored the first try! The rest of the game followed with very much the same approach and result. The South Australian team were playing open running rugby, using the width of the pitch and keeping the ball alive. It was a fantastic game to watch the youngsters play. The team put phase after phase together and the tries continued to follow, consistent changing of players to ensure game time for all did not halt the momentum, in fact it didn’t even slow… The young team looked motivated and hungry to perform as they executed moves smoothly and created space to play with. The final score ended up with South Australia convincingly winning over the Victorian Barbarians team 57-0.

Congratulations to the players, coaching staff and management for a weekend rugby experience the young men will remember for a very long time!