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

In 2017 the U18 Schoolboys Division 1 and Division 2 competitions will be held at separate venues. This creates logistical problems for selectors and coaches of Australian U18 teams to view talented individuals from both divisions. Proposals were put forward by minor states to have top players still be a part of the pathway in a meaningful way. South Australia have created these opportunities through their relationship with the Melbourne Rebels franchise. The SA U18 Schoolboys would play against the Victorian U18 Schoolboys a few weeks before the Championships and stand out players would be identified to be included in the Combined states team to join players from all other division 1 teams and division 2 players to compete in the Division 1 Championships.

The U18s began training 3 weeks before the trip to Melbourne as this has been placed 4 weeks off from the championships to allow the coaching team and players to identify weaknesses and iron out these issues before the Championships take place.

The players were up early on Saturday 10 June, meeting at the airport at 5:30am! 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 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 SA U18 team started the game with the kind of aggression and energy which has been lacking from junior South Australian teams in the recent past, setting a standard for both teams for the day. The game was a good one to watch as the teams were not mismatched at all, the difference between the two being decision making, work off the ball and support play. A couple of intercept passes and key turnovers cost the SA team some easy points throughout the game, but it was the number of first time tackles missed which will make the most work for the coaching team over the next 4 weeks.

The second half saw a much better performance from the SA team as the support runners ran better lines and the team took care of the ball a lot better, but were still unable to cross the line as they conceded two tries in the second half.

Well played to the young men and congratulations to Victorian Schoolboys on a 42-0 win.

The next 4 weeks of training will be important as the team seeks to learn from the errors made in Melbourne to grow for the U18 Schoolboys Division 2 Championships on the Gold Coast in July.