Gunnedah Touch Association is skilling up the next generation of talented young players with the aim of potentially forming squads to compete at the NSW Junior State Cup.

The representative pathway plan followed a two-day skills development camp for almost 100 school-aged juniors who were coached in the game’s fundamentals at Donnelly Playing Fields.

Gunnedah Goannas Touch Association junior coordinator Will Dowe said by highlighting talented young players, they hope to increase the level of competitive touch played at local competitions and ensure sustainability in the club and representative-level touch.

“Over the past few years, the association has been slowly increasing the amount of senior representative teams participating in NSW State Cup,” Dowe said. 

“Last year we were poised to send four senior teams – an over 40s mixed, over 30s mixed, opens mixed and an under 20s girls. Unfortunately, the competition was postponed due to flooding in Port Macquarie. 

“We have run junior touch sessions prior to senior games on Monday nights over the past couple of years.

“These sessions led young players through games and drills on passing, catching, dodging, weaving, rucking, attacking and defending. They were able to put their skills to the test in a game of touch in the second half of the session. 

“With the interest we had attracted among junior players in town, we found it was time to step up to the next level – talent scouting. 

“Two members of the newly-formed juniors sub-committee attained their ‘Talent’ level coaching certificate which led them through the process of identifying and developing local junior talent.” 

Dowe said the committee looked carefully at the age of players in its successful summer competition and discovered many players were between the ages of 10 and 16. 

Coaches and referees were then asked to identify players who displayed talent at playing touch and the potential to develop this talent given the appropriate instruction and attention. 

“This led to around 80-100 players being invited to attend this two-day talent development camp,” he said.

“Our intention is to create ‘squads’ in certain age groups that could potentially represent Gunnedah Goannas Touch at the NSW Junior State Cup, usually in February each year. 

“The players who attended this two-day camp will be observed, coached, developed, directed and instructed in order to develop their skills and prepare them for this competition.”

The Gunnedah association has also been working with Narrabri Touch to help provide a representative pathway for more talented players from neighbouring touch associations that may not have the numbers to build a team. 

NSW Touch Football game development officer Deacon Cameron also made the special trip to Gunnedah to assist with the development camp and instruction with Gunnedah’s under 16 players to help set them up for better success at State Cup level.

Dowe expressed his gratitude for the tireless assistance of all who contributed to make the development clinic a success.

“If not for the help and assistance of coaches and volunteers, we would not have been able to run this camp,” he said. 

“We have been able to make the camp free to players, in the hope of encouraging participation and skill development. 

“We also hope to work alongside our local sporting clubs that run games on the weekend by only holding competitions, training and clinics on week nights. 

“We have been overwhelmed with the positive response by local families to be involved in this camp. We have so much local junior talent that we are eager to tap into and set up players on representative pathways.”

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