NYC - National U20s Youth Cup Starts in 2008

12th April 2007

Toyota is partnering the NRL in revolutionising the way young players balance off field career options with the lure of a professional sporting contract. Toyota and the NRL have today officially launched the 2008 Toyota Cup, a National Under 20s competition that will showcase the elite young talent of Rugby League like never before. The Toyota Cup is being heralded as a magnet for the country’s best junior sporting talent with every NRL team showcasing its best young players each week through the competition. While the draw will mirror that of the Telstra Premiership, the Toyota Cup teams will operate separately as a semi professional competition.

Toyota Cup squads will be required to schedule training sessions that promote off field education and traineeships, with plans to exclude any team training during business hours on three working days of each week. Clubs will be encouraged to tailor training sessions around off field education programmes and to ensure all athletes are engaged in either these or work placement programmes. All players will attend specific Under 20s induction programmes that will outline the opportunities and responsibilities of a semi-professional sporting environment. A percentage of the competition’s salary cap will be dedicated to education funding.

Every Toyota Cup team will have a designated welfare officer who will accompany the team on all away trips and who will assist the players in planning off field career and education options. Former International Michael Buettner, the NRL’s current Game Liaison Manager, will move into the role of competition manager and says the focus will be on preparing footballers for every aspect of their career. “Players accept today that professionalism is about life both on and off the field but most of the older players have had to learn that after making first grade,” he said. “From the moment a player makes it into the Toyota Cup the message will be loud and clear that the first step will be to start building for life after football. “Most guys at the elite junior level don’t make it to the Telstra Premiership and we want to make sure that seeing them making the most of their sporting talents doesn’t cost them career opportunities they may have otherwise had. “We also find that the guys that do make it through are better focused through their football careers if they have a sense of where they are going after football. “The Toyota Under 20s will give parents and athletes the security of knowing they are playing with the best athletes and playing for the best outcomes in their lives.” One of the staunchest supporters of the competition and chairman of the Under 20s planning committee, Parramatta Chief Executive, Mr Denis Fitzgerald, said the Toyota Cup was a crucial part of the game’s future. “The competition for playing talent has never been more intense and the Toyota Cup offers a unique pathway,” he said.

“Rugby League in the past pioneered modified games for juniors, it developed elite training squads and academies ahead of other codes and this competition is every bit as significant. “No other code can offer an opportunity like this and it will attract not only the best athletes in our game but will also give plenty of others an incentive to look at Rugby League as well. “I think fans will want to come early and see the stars of the future and I think parents will want to see their children in a competition that develops athletes on and off the field.” Toyota Executive Director of Sales and Marketing Mr Alan Porich said today that sponsorship was part of a long term commitment to Rugby League: “The Toyota Cup has many of the features of the American college system, acting as the stepping stone between amateur clubs and the professional sport. “One of its attractions is the strong focus on education and training, including rookie camps and other initiatives aimed at developing a new breed of NRL player. “The Toyota Cup adds to our strong links with the game through the Cowboys the Sharks and the Broncos. “Toyota will also become the official vehicle of the NRL and we will be involved in both the Centenary and Saturday night football.” NRL Chief Executive Mr David Gallop said the Toyota Cup was an example of the game’s planning for the future. “It’s fitting that the game’s centenary year will be marked with a new competition aimed at the next generation of stars,” he said. “It reflects a lot of cooperation from the NSW, Queensland and Australian Rugby Leagues.”