QRL Realign Pathways from 2024 - U21s Removed

29th August 2023

Queensland Rugby League can today confirm the implementation of a new statewide competitions structure for aspirational male and female players. The 2024 season will see the removal of the male Under 21 competition, with the current Cyril Connell Challenge and Mal Meninga Cup competitions moving to Under 17 and Under 19 age groups. The new structure will also align with female competition age groups following confirmation of the introduction of an Under 17 girls competition to support the existing Harvey Norman Under 19s.

Both female competitions have been structured to accommodate future expansion and competition growth, and will be underpinned by the Future Maroons Academy supporting the City/Country Under 17 and Ruby/Sapphires Under 19 programs. The elevation of under-age male competitions aligns with the junior representative program in New South Wales, as well as the proposed Under 17 interstate game and the existing Under 19 clash. The Under 19 male competition will be played over an extended period to compensate for the removal of Under 21s, with a proposed 10 round season and four week finals series. Both male competitions will continue to accommodate school competitions as part of the existing pathway.

QRL chief executive officer Ben Ikin said the revamp would allow clubs to sharpen their focus on talent development and talent specialisation. "Our statewide clubs are best positioned to develop talent for the elite game and we believe the best 20 and 21 year-old players in the state are capable of playing in the Hostplus Cup and BMD Premiership," Ikin said. "Data also suggests that the majority of players in this age group already have been identified, meaning they hold NRL or NRL Development contracts, or are Hostplus Cup and BMD Premiership contracted players."

Ikin said the changes would serve to strengthen community rugby league. "This model provides statewide competition clubs a better opportunity to align with their community league affiliates," Ikin said. "Its also important to remember that players who may take longer to develop still have a pathway to open age QRL statewide competitions via local senior grade competitions in their area. The changes to competition structures are further underpinned by the 13-15 year old development programs delivered around the state. There are currently Under 15 boys programs being delivered around Queensland, with rebel Development Series games scheduled for the upcoming school holidays. These programs will remain a critical part of the talent identification process for Under 17 boys and girls."

Ref - QRL [Viewed 30 Aug 2023]


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