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Push fo rugby league into Sydney's elite GPS schools

05 April 2015 - 07:23 AM

 Push to introduce rugby league into Sydney's elite GPS schools

Rugby league officials have declared their ambition to introduce the sport into the elite Greater Public Schools, whose manicured fields have been reserved exclusively for rugby union for more than a century.

The 15-man game has been the only rugby code offered to students since the Athletic Association of the Great Public Schools of NSW first met and decided to put it on the curriculum at a landmark meeting at the Gunsler's Café in Circular Quay in 1892.

But after being on the outer for 123 years, there is a push for league to also be an option for the prestigious Sydney schools association comprising St Joseph's, Sydney Grammar, The Armidale School, Shore, Sydney Boys High, Saint Ignatius, Kings, Newington and Scots.

"We should be an inclusive sport, we should find ways of getting all the school bodies involved in playing the game," NSW Rugby League chief executive David Trodden told Fairfax Media.

"We shouldn't confine ourselves to any particular group of schools just because historically they have been schools which have supported rugby league.

"For me, it would be a great thing thing if we got to a point where the GPS schools played league in some format or competition."

Laurie Daley is best known as the coach of the Blues, but it's another mentoring gig which has put the GPS issue on the NSWRL's agenda.

Daley has been coaching his son's rugby league side, Brothers, in the North Sydney junior rugby league competition in recent years.

Will Daley recently began high school at Joeys but he and his league mates – many of whom have also joined GPS schools – wanted to continue playing the 13-man code.

"That has caused some thinking about some way to get the GPS schools to be involved in rugby league as well," Trodden explained.

"You wouldn't run a rugby league [tournament] in competition with their existing rugby union competition.

"There are a whole lot of things you could do – you could start out with a knockout competition so that you're not talking about a full season. Then you could gauge their level of interest. It's certainly worth thinking about."

Some of rugby league's most promising young players have come from renowned rugby nurseries.

Parramatta sensation Tepai Moeroa, described by club legend Peter Sterling as being "as good as any young forward that has come through in the last decade", is a product of Newington College.

So too is Wests Tigers hooker Joel Luani and Joey Lussick, the Australian schoolboys union representative who also played SG Ball for Manly during his school days.

Some of Australia's biggest sporting stars have crossed the divide during their professional careers.

Sam Burgess, Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau made their names in the NRL but are now enjoying stints, with varying success, in union. Others who have made mid-career switches include Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri, Mat Rogers and Timana Tahu, all of whom returned to league.

"It used to be the case that you never went from league to union and when you went from union to league you could never go back," Trodden said.

"These days there is a regular interchange and going to and from sports gives more career options. It seems a natural progression that at junior level there would be a greater likelihood of guys playing both games as well.

"The way our SG Ball and Harold Matthews seasons are structured at the moment, starting early in the [year], it's possible for some of those guys to combine playing in the Harold Matthews and SG Ball competitions with going to those schools as the GPS season doesn't go full on until later in the year."

The sporting facilities at many at GPS schools – some employ sports scientists and provide students with cutting-edge equipment such as hyperbaric chambers – is the envy of NRL clubs.

The union fraternity has long looked down on its working-class counterparts, making fun of the "mungos" for boorish off-field behaviour.

However, it's hoped the NSWRL's ambitions will break down barriers and increase league participation with what has been to date an untapped talent pool.