ARU to announce guidelines for safer experiences at junior level

Safe play: Players such as Nathaniel Fox, Jake Williams and Tom Daley will benefit from a new safety guideline expected to be introduced into junior rugby this season.
Safe play: Players such as Nathaniel Fox, Jake Williams and Tom Daley will benefit from a new safety guideline expected to be introduced into junior rugby this season.

PORT Macquarie Pirates junior vice-president Peter Daley agrees with Australian Rugby Union’s decision to create a safer environment at a junior level.

Ahead of the 2018 season, the ARU are expected to announce changes to junior and senior rugby aimed at ensuring maximum safety and enjoyment for all participants.

Daley believes the introduction at a junior level of a new national Size for Age guideline would create a more level playing field.

“I know last year some of the 13-year-old kids I coached were thrown around and treated like rag dolls by some of the bigger kids,” he said.

“We all know rugby is a contact sport and I coach the kids to play hard, but play fair so you can’t blame those bigger kids.

“The smaller ones haven’t come back this season because they don’t want it to happen again.”

He was, however, awaiting confirmation from the governing body how the guidelines would be enforced.

The only indication came in an online registration form which required players to fill out a weight and height section.

“We’re five weeks out from the start of the competition and we still don’t know what the parameters will be,” he said.

“In some of those age groups the boys are maturing at such a different rate so it’s a great idea in theory, but we aren’t too sure how it’s actually going to work.”

The Pirates junior vice-president said the action had come from many years of growing concerns from parents about an uneven playing field.

“There is always that classic image of a big kids running down the middle of the field with about four or five little kids hanging off him,” he said.

“There has been a push for this to happen from a lot of the quarters for probably 10-15 years.”

The other concern came in the form of having players who were too big for a specific age group to be “manhandled” by playing up one or two age brackets.

“I’ve got a kid or two in the under-14 age group who are six foot and pretty big boys who won’t be able to play in that division this year,” Daley said.

“They’ve only been playing rugby for one year, so I’ve got a real concerns about them having to go and play in the under-16 division because they just haven’t been playing for long enough.”

Daley pointed to a high-profile case last season in the Sydney grade competition.

“It involved a well-known club from Sydney whose president wouldn’t let their son play because he was too small for a specific age group,” he said.

“There are a lot of things we like to criticise the ARU about. This is a move in the right direction, but we just need to know how it’s going to work.”