Rugby Union

ACT Brumbies invest in junior talent for Stephen Larkham's 'dream' revival

ACT Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham wants to go back to the future to invest in Canberra's junior ranks and develop them as the club's future Super Rugby stars.

That's why he called on some of the capital's best under-20s players to bolster the Brumbies' squad for pre-season training and is adamant they have what it takes to earn a contract in the coming years.

Thomas Hall, right, and Jordan Jackson-Hope have been training with the Brumbies to fast-track their development.
Thomas Hall, right, and Jordan Jackson-Hope have been training with the Brumbies to fast-track their development. Photo: Jay Cronan

Larkham said his "dream" was to build a pathway to the top and tap into the Brumbies' early years when the majority of the players were promoted from Canberra's club competition.

To bridge the gap and invest in local talent, Russell Ingram has been working to develop a structure that sees Canberra's juniors utilise the same playing style that Larkham uses in Super Rugby.

Nick Jooste and Joe Powell are the future of the Brumbies.
Nick Jooste and Joe Powell are the future of the Brumbies. Photo: Rohan Thomson

"We lost our academy program in 2011 when we lost funding for that, we've been desperate to get it back," Larkham said.

"Russell Ingram has started a really good program for the junior age groups in Canberra all the way through, with the under-20s as the pinnacle of the academy.


"He's worked hard to get a skills program in place to use the stuff we do with their training. The boys have responded really well to that.

"My dream is to get back to where the Brumbies first started which was 30 per cent of the squad was local. That's a longer-term goal but we're rebuilding it slowly through the junior ranks."

The Brumbies boast seven players who made their way through Canberra's junior representative ranks or made their mark in club rugby before getting a professional opportunity.

It is hoped the latest batch of ACT under-20s players will follow the same path in the coming years, and Larkham put faith in a handful to step up at pre-season training.

The under-20s squad for the 2016 national championships was named on Monday, with Tyrel Lomax, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Ryan Lonergan and Thomas Hall all testing themselves against men at Brumbies training.

Former St Edmund's College student and Australian schoolboys flyhalf Jackson-Hope has been working with Christian Lealiifano to fast-track his development.

"It's my second year of doing the pre-season with the Brumbies, I wouldn't say I'm more comfortable but it's not as much of a shock to the system as it was last year," Jackson-Hope, 19, said.

"Stephen Larkham and Christian have been helping ... [Lealiifano] has taken me under his wing which has been awesome.

"We've talked a lot about positional play, my timing off [the scrumhalf] and how me squaring up defenders sets up the outside backs. I didn't realise that before.

"He sat down with me and went through video which really helped me. Having these opportunities definitely helps you see a clear pathway in Canberra."

Hall moved to Canberra last year to go to university and the powerful winger says getting a taste of Super Rugby action has fuelled his desire to earn a contract.

"The fitness has been the hardest and it's been a bit of a shock," Hall said.

"I didn't quite vomit but I came home sore and tired and struggled to sleep because the body was in so much agony, it would have to be up there with one of the hardest things I've done in my life."

Larkham said: "They've definitely got potential for Super Rugby, that's why we brought them into the squad."

The ACT under-20s team, which includes Brumbies rookie Nick Jooste, will start training on January 4 before the national championships start in February.

ACT under-20s squad: Jacob Abel (Easts), Marcus Cutler, Falelie Sione, Suita Tai, Bruce Jnr Monu, Dean Paragali, Samuel Ross, Cole Davis, Harry Tyson (Royals), Tyrel Lomax, Angus Wagner, Cameron Holt, Darcy Swain, Sione Fualalo, Ryan Lonergan, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Trai Henderson, Iziah Tittor, Geoffrey Robertson (Tuggeranong), Tom Ross (Daramalan), Tevita Unga-Wolske, Zac Shepherd, Jordan Fulivai, Jamie Kotz, Thomas Hall (Gungahlin), Oliver Adams (TBC), Angus Allen, Sam Allen, Brodie Leber, Nick Jooste (Wests), Lewis Bozzarto, Levi Goodwin-Shaw, Mitchell Douch, Ben Darmody (Queanbeyan).