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Player Development Framework


  • Who sat on the player development framework steering committee?
    Prof Cliff Mallett (UQ), BJ Mather (NSWRL), Bert Lowrie (CRLNSW), Keith Onslow (CRLNSW), Brad Donald (Jillaroo Coach), Ben Ikin (Fox), Ivan Cleary (Wests Tigers), Paul Dyer (Broncos), Matt Cameron (Penrith Panthers), Gareth Holmes (Bulldogs), Dave Maiden (QRL), the late Peter Mulholland (Raiders), Bob Crudgington (UQ), Greg Brentnall. *Organisations were accurate at time of involvement.
  • Rugby League is steeped in tradition, why would we change the way we play?
    We aren’t changing the way we play, the game is simply evolving with a sole focus on providing a more positive experience to more families by providing the appropriate game delivery models for the varying stages of development.
  • I grew up playing league and it didn’t do me any harm.  Why the sudden focus on developmental stages and reviewing the training methods? 
    It’s incumbent on the game to respond to new information as it becomes available. The nature of our sport lends itself to concerns around variances in development, particularly through childhood into early adolescence. A better understanding of these variances allows the game to implement a number of initiatives targeted at reducing the impact of varying levels of maturity in players from a physical, mental and cognitive perspective.
  • With all these changes to our competition, will there be more admin and compliance work for volunteers? 
    No. There’s not necessarily “more” admin or compliance, these progressions are more of a shift in thinking.
  • The NRL is wrapping the game up in more and more red tape.  I know that it is all about keeping kids safe and in the game – but isn’t this taking it a bit far? 
    That isn’t the intention and the framework has been conscious of respecting the games history and traditions however it’s important the game evolves with the expectations of society in what is now a very competitive market.
  • Why are the participation rates declining?
    Team sports generally are on the decline globally so we’re facing similar challenges to most sports, however our research shows us there’s opportunities for Rugby League to buck this trend by shifting our focus, at a participation level, from a high performance mentality to an approach more appealing to kids, which is fun and enjoyment. 
  • Clubs are under so much pressure to do more with less, these changes sound like more work! 
    There’s not necessarily “more” work, these progressions are more of a shift in thinking.
  • All the developmental research is quite confusing. Can you summarise the key elements that parents of players need to be aware of? 
    This is a complex subject and a very important consideration for a sport such as Rugby League. At a very broad level, an understanding that children born on the same day can be up to 4 years apart developmentally is important and that the framework will introduce initiatives that cater for some of this variance and provide an opportunity for the late maturers and late bloomers to continue to play Rugby League.
  • If we have any other concerns, where can we go for more information or help? 
     Go to your local league or NRL Game Development Officer.
  • Will the tag and touch options of our game continue to grow?  
    We hope so. The bigger the Rugby League family grows the more vibrant we’ll be as a sport.  
  • Are we really losing participation numbers? The game seems to be going from strength to strength in our region?  Can you explain this?
    Yes & No. Nationally we can claim Participation growth, which is largely due to radical growth in female participation (more than 20% year on year since 2015) however male participation has some worrying trends. Pleasingly, in areas where the Player Development Framework has been implemented we are seeing some positive signs of the impact the initiatives have on overall participation, including males. Another key consideration is % of population playing Rugby League and in this regard, even areas who can claim what appears to be participation growth, may actually still be in decline when measured on % of population playing Rugby League.
  • What are the next steps for the framework project?
    With all other Rugby League playing states and territories aligned to the Player Development Framework, season 2023 will see NSW continue the transition to full alignment with the PDF.
  • I can play rugby league the way I like at school, with all the changes, why would my mates and I play club? 
    In collaboration with representatives of the school sector, the game will seek to have delivery of Rugby League within the school environment align with the player development framework.



  • The kids love playing for premierships, we can’t take that away from them.  Why is the NRL considering this?
    It’s important to make a clear distinction between competition and finals. This is not about removing the competitive nature of our sport, this is about creating a more inclusive environment where the focus is on developing every member of a team. We know competition structure determines development outcomes and the shift to a development mentality provides the environment for coaches & parents to focus more on developing every member of their team and less on a result. Our research shows the main reason families leave our sport is due to a negative experience associated with an over-emphasis on winning at the expense of a child’s enjoyment.
  • Getting a trophy at the end of the season is something that the kids strive for, to take this away would be disappointing for coaches, players and families.  What is the reasoning for this change?
    It’s important to make a clear distinction between competition and finals. This is not about removing the competitive nature of our sport, this is about creating a more inclusive environment where the focus is on developing every member of a team. There is clear evidence the introduction of premierships too early leads directly to early specialisation and promotes the impact of relative age effects. We also know cognitively, it’s not until around 13 the majority of kids begin to understand the impacts that effort, practice and ability have on performance.
  • How will we let the kids know that they are playing for development – not a premiership!
    To avoid unnecessary worry, NSW will gradually transition their competitions over the coming seasons.
  • Soccer and other international sports are still playing for premierships, why is Rugby League taking them away from us?
    There is an ever-increasing body of research being done globally around why kids play sport and not surprisingly, the main reason kids play sport is for fun and enjoyment, winning competitions sits well down the list. It’s important to make a clear distinction between competition and premierships. Kids will still be encouraged to compete to the very best of their ability, the development competitions will provide the environment that allows coaches and parents to focus on developing every member of their team without some of the behaviours that are evident when premierships are introduced.



  • Tackling is a key part of  rugby league at every age and stage of our game.  Changing the age for this, would be diminishing the core foundations of league.  What is the rationale for making these changes?
    Tackling is not being removed from our game. Our research shows TackleReady competitions will provide a more appealing proposition for families with children of the age, and who have an interest in Rugby League but who are not yet playing. TackleReady competitions create the opportunity for the game to deliver a dedicated program designed to improve every child’s ability to tackle and be tackled through the TackleReady program. This program instils more confidence and more competence in more kids in an aspect of the game that can often been seen as a barrier to playing i.e. tackling and being tackled.
  • I am worried about my kids tackling from a young age, particularly with all the recent accidents in the media.  I think its great, what the NRL are proposing about changing the tackling ages, but my family think I am being too soft. Can you explain the research in simple terms?
    Rugby League Tag and the TackleReady program provide the necessary space for kids to learn one of the more challenging aspects of the sport in a controlled environment. This is done through the TackleReady program, a 6 session program designed to instil confidence and competence in a child’s ability to tackle and be tackled. Our research indicates there’s significant interest in a tag version of the game in the younger age groups and the Rugby League Tag competitions are seen as an ideal entry point to start a Rugby League journey.
  • Will the TackleReady Program require more time and expense from our family?
    No. The TackleReady program will run concurrently with the U7 season and will be at no additional cost to the usual registration fee. TackleReady educators will work with Team Coaches to deliver the program.
  • I’ve been coaching and teaching the kids to tackle from U6s for years – are you saying that I have been doing it wrong?
    No. Our research indicates in regards to their knowledge and experience our coaches are held in high regard. The TackleReady program goes beyond just tackling and also teaches safe-fall, negotiating contact both when tackling and being tackled and introduces proprioception through the Mascot Moves. The program is designed to instil confidence and build competence in what is perceived as the most challenging aspect of the sport.
  • How will the TackleReady program actually work and be rolled out? 
    The TackleReady program will be delivered through the Club networks by TackleReady Deliverers and TackleReady Educators. The Deliverers and Educators will be engaged by the game and will work with the U7’s coaches to deliver the program.



  • How will the 18 month registration window actually work?  Won’t this place more pressure on clubs?
    The 18 month registration policy is targeted towards kids, under set criteria, who would get a more positive experience by playing in competitions more closely aligned to their stage of development. The administration of this policy is an online application automatically offered to the respective families on registration. Club’s will receive a list of players who are playing under this policy and will only be involved should a review situation arise.
  • How does the 18month registration window and the weight for age competition align?
    A player applying to play under the 18 month registration window will be required to play in the Open competition of the age group they are seeking to play in. A players height and weight are one of the considerations applicable in the 18 month registration policy. Our research indicates further consideration should be given to a player applying to play under the 18 month registration policy into an Open competition and who falls above the 85th percentile of the age group they are applying to play in.



  • The weight for age related competition sounds like it will be hard to administer for clubs? 
    There will be a small amount of administration for clubs with teams wishing to compete in a Weight Related competition. This will mainly be around the weighing of team members and confirming they meet the necessary criteria. Outside this the teams will largely function similar to age categorised teams.
  • Are we really going to be judging weight in children? Weight is such a subjective topic, how are you going to monitor that people are not making judgements on kids that are incorrect?
    The weight related guide takes the subjectivity out of the discussion. The guide simply provides 2 competitions within an age category, an Open and a Restricted. Families of children who opt to play in the Open competition do so with the understanding players of all sizes and weights will be in this competition. Families of children who opt to play in the Restricted competition do so with the knowledge players within this competition must meet the weight restriction relevant to the respective age category.
  • Will you be providing guidelines around the weight for age competition requirements?
    Yes. The Weight Related Competition Guide will form the basis for competition delivery for Leagues offering Weight Related Competitions.
  • I’m worried that people may rig the weight for age competition – how are you going to ensure that this doesn’t happen?
    There will be an accepted level of variance that accounts for reasonable growth across the course of a season. Players who fall outside this criteria will be ineligible to play. There will be a process to lodge a review should there be serious concerns about a players alignment with the guideline.



  • Will the RISE program disadvantage my child that has been picked for representative football for years if you are allowing anyone to enter this?
    There’s no disadvantage to kids who are already being selected in development programs and/or representative teams, they can continue to be part of that pathway. 
  • Can you explain the RISE program in greater detail?
    The RISE program is designed to provide aspirational kids an opportunity to pursue their aspiration in the game. The program is a holistic Rugby League development program that seeks to improve not a only the participant as a player, but also provides a socio-emotional program in LifeFit delivered in partnership with Griffith University and every program member gains accreditations in Refereeing and Leaguesafe.



  • As we know about our sport, some parents are very vocal -  what are the mechanisms you will put in place to keep our children safe from comments regarding weight and age group allocation?
    We are partnering with University of Queensland to develop a Parent Education Program based on the Positive Parenting Program. This program has made significant impact on the behaviour of parents in areas where it has been introduced across the world.
  • Are coaching methods being looked at as a part of the Player Development Framework? 
    Yes. A Coach Development Framework has been developed to complement the Player Development Framework. The Coach education program will be led by the outcomes we’re seeking to attain for our players; Connection, Confidence, Competence, Character and Contribution.
  • What is the plan to develop and support our coaches to be best?
    A revised Coach Education program has been developed to compliment the Player Development Framework. The program is led by the outcomes the game seeks to achieve for it’s participants ie; Connection, Confidence, Character, Competence and Contribution. 
  • There is a lot of focus on players through these changes, what about coaches and even parents? What is being done to improve these stakeholder groups?
    A coach development program has been developed to compliment the framework and this program is led by the participant outcomes the game is seeking to achieve ie; connection, confidence, competence, character and contribution. The game is also partnering with the University of Queensland to develop a Positive Parenting Program for Rugby League and it is this 3 pronged approach that will create the environment that provides a participant the best possible experience.



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Return to Framework

Find out more about the Player Development Framework (PDF).