Kenmore Junior Rugby – Cubs to Colts & beyond: a consistent pathway
Each year, Kenmore Districts Rugby Club (KDRC) or simply ‘The Kenmore Bears’, as with all other junior rugby Clubs, sees a change in player numbers returning to the club from the previous year. Sometimes more players join an age-group and swelling numbers allow a new team to be formed, and more commonly in our older year-groups with the introduction of school rugby, the number of returning players declines, resulting in fewer teams.
Coupling the above with the BJRU requirement to grade teams based on ability, and some parents’ wishes for their children not to be graded, we at Kenmore experience a recurring issue from U12 upwards of too many or too few players in the age group to form an appropriately-sized squad. When this happens, we need to recruit from other clubs, bid farewell to loyal families, or form barbarian teams. Additionally, it is recognised that some players want to play highly competitive rugby, and others wish to play less competitive rugby in lower Divisions where they are more evenly matched.
In the past few years we have combined player numbers with Wests RFC in the U13 and older age groups to address these issues, creating the Wests Kenmore barbarian teams. This alliance did not proceed with the under 13 age group this year, and this uncertainty for our Kenmore players has encouraged the Bears’ committee to explore options for future seasons and upcoming age groups.
The committee of KDRC, led by President Brett Eldred, has worked hard to explore options and create a solution that offers benefits to players of all abilities and allows longer-term planning beyond a single season.
The KDRC committee has explored three main options to address the issue for U13 onwards, including:
- Go it alone and attempt to provide rugby opportunities for those beyond the U12 age-group as the Kenmore Bears, or
- Go Wests, as Wests Kenmore combined rugby, or
- Go UQ Rugby Alliance Pathway.
‘Go it alone’ means that, as player numbers drop away beyond U12, the KDRC forms teams of mixed abilities as permitted by the dwindling numbers and many players leave the club or the sport, dissatisfied with the standard of rugby available to them at the club. Historically, in the ‘Go it alone’ model, player numbers in older age-groups dwindle, and club numbers generally dwindle further as parents seek greater certainty of a pathway beyond U12 for their children by preemptively moving younger siblings to other clubs.
Go Wests means that the club continues on an ad-hoc, year-to-year basis to join forces with Wests RFC, merging our contributing players into the Wests Kenmore Green and Gold squads when it suits and some years not doing so, falling back on the ‘go it alone’ option. In this model, the clubs split the costs of providing basic services (shirts, training facilities) for players whilst additional services (courses, coaches) are unilaterally funded. The club’s members will not know from one year to the next what the format will be.
The ‘UQ Rugby Alliance Pathway’ means that the club has certainty from year-to-year throughout all year-groups that at U13 level and successively beyond, Kenmore players will join with Taylor Bridge, to form a larger multi-team squad capable of supporting graded and ungraded players in teams of different abilities. The squads would be known as the UQ Junior Heavies, sporting a match strip based on the University RFC Red Heavies’ maroon colours and supported by accredited coaches from the senior club.
In the ‘UQ Rugby Alliance Pathway’ model, parents signing a child into the KDRC’s Cubs program will know that beyond U12, their young player will have a pathway to senior rugby that is shared by their Bears team-mates. An U13+ registration at any of the alliance pathway junior clubs will contribute to the pooled provision of rugby services supporting multiple teams of differing abilities and playing outlook. We firmly believe that this will provide greater opportunity for continued participation in the sport by both boys and girls.
The ‘UQ Rugby Alliance Pathway’ would provide accredited coaches from the University of Queensland RFC on a fee-for-service basis (from registrations) to help raise the level of top level rugby. Efficiencies will be obtained through the greater purchasing power of the alliance – for example in the procurement of field maintenance services or clothing. Players moving up from Kenmore U12 will form a new squad in the aligned Junior Heavies on an equal footing with those from other junior clubs. Additional benefits will include access to rugby camps led by UQ RFC, and access to a Development Officer appointed by UQ RFC with the intent to increase junior-based numbers within the BJRU’s Western region.
Female rugby is a rapidly-growing component of the sport and the UQ Rugby Alliance Pathway will provide greater opportunities for girls to participate in mixed teams and in female-only Sevens competitions.
Please note this is not a Rugby Australia (RA), Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) or Brisbane Junior Rugby Union (BJRU) initiative. It is initiated by KDRC in conjunction with Taylor Bridge Rugby Club (TBRC) with the strong support of UQ Rugby Club.
Further information can be obtained from the KDRC committee and an information session will be arranged, which will be attended by the alliance partners.
The committee will propose the UQ Rugby Alliance Pathway option for adoption at the upcoming Annual General Meeting in order to implement this strategy, to have in place and operational for the 2019 season.
Yours in Rugby
The Kenmore Bears Committee