The St George Illawarra Dragons Junior Representative squad underwent a successful Orientation Day at the University of Wollongong recently.
Both the St George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers respective Harold Matthews Cup (U16) and SG Ball (U18) Summer Train-On squads learnt about the pathways to NRL, and the assistance the Club and their coaching staff can provide to help them achieve their goals of becoming NRL players.
NSW Rugby League Officer Greg Nichols, and Dragons prop Russell Packer facilitated an education session that covered Social Media, Performance Enhancing Drugs and Respectful Relations.
“In terms of anti-doping, we went through the fundamentals, wanting them to understand that they could potentially be tested next year and the ramifications of having an anti-doping violation against them," said Nichols.
“In terms of social media, once something is put out on social media, they can never get it back and it can have dire consequences down the track, and it could cause them some strife later on if they do make something out of their NRL playing careers.”
Following the education component of the day, all players headed out to conduct fitness testing.
Steelers Harold Matthews Cup Head Coach Ben Linde was impressed with some of the results.
“I thought the effort was really good, and there were some very surprising outcomes," said Linde .
"It was a hot day as well.
"My big thing is effort, and they all put in, so I’m happy with that.”
The testing provides the coaching staff a guide to the fittest players, and those players that still require some work, with Linde noting that there is some tough work between now and Christmas.
“Seeing who needs to push to an extra level, definitely based more on fitness," said Linde.
"It’ll be like nothing they’ve done before, so going from club level to this level, they’re going to get a bit of a surprise, they’ll see their results, and it will make them work harder.”
Steelers SG Ball Assistant Coach Shaun Timmins was also impressed with the squad, in their first session.
“Obviously it was their first session, give them a yoyo test, just to see where their fitness is before the start of the season," said Timmins.
"A few of the boys were impressive, and a few were a bit unfit, but that’s what the pre-season is for, and now a big block before Christmas we will get them as fit and strong as we can.
“With the yoyo test, it’s good to get a look, and it’s a bit of a mental thing too, to see how mentally tough they are”
“They are not too far away, some of these guys that we’ve coached the last couple of years in SG Ball are now starting to get in the fulltime NRL squads.
"Last year, Nathan Cleary at Penrith, he was playing SG Ball, and the next year he was in first grade, so if they want it enough and work hard, they’ll give themselves every chance to play NRL.”