White establishes talent squad for generation next
Brumbies players Scott Sio, Siliva Siliva and Ruan Smith train in their ACT club colours. Photo: Colleen Petch
The ACT Brumbies will establish a talented-player squad to boost depth and give players a pathway to Super Rugby less than a year after the ARU abolished the province academies.
The Canberra Times can reveal Jake White is moving to bridge the gap between amateur and professional rugby with the top 20 players from the capital's premier division to be added to a Brumbies talent squad.
It comes just a year after the ARU decided to restrict Super Rugby clubs to 35-man rosters and replaced individual academies with a centralised ARU program for all Australian teams to utilise in times of trouble.
It meant players drafted into the Brumbies when required had no knowledge of team intricacies. But in a bid to provide a pathway for John I Dent Cup stars and create more depth, White wants the top players to train together once a week.
They will be given access to training and strength and conditioning programs, and have the chance to impress the Super Rugby coaches.
With no level of competition between club rugby and Super Rugby, White hopes it will help fast-track development and open opportunities to test the next level of talent. The Brumbies will play an ACT XV in a pre-season fixture and White will blend in some of his contracted players to get his entire squad match-fit for Super Rugby.
The World Cup-winner is aiming to have a coach appointed by the end of next week - likely from within the Canberra club ranks - to work with him developing the program.
''We want to upskill them so they can improve for their club and then they can give themselves a fair chance of making it to Super Rugby,'' White said.
''At the end of the day not everyone is going to make it as a professional, but it gives them a boost that the Brumbies are monitoring them.
''It's about bridging the gap … club's can use it to attract players to Canberra because having a pathway is the most important thing for a young player.''
The Queensland Reds have set up a similar ''Reds college'' to ensure they have players ready to back up if required.
White has set the initial target at 20 players, but the system is flexible and able fluctuate depending on the talent available. The Brumbies have previously fostered fringe players in an academy program.
But the ARU replaced it by giving each Australian team five extended squad players - funded by the ARU - and had the next best players train together at one academy.
It was feared when the ARU moved the system away from Canberra that with no clear pathway to Super Rugby in the capital it would be harder to recruit players .
It created a stumbling block; if the Brumbies suffered bad injuries, they would have to draft in players from outside of their training group with no knowledge of the coaches, players or game plans.
Since taking over the Brumbies' reins, White has made a big effort to boost the local competition. He has allocated each of his contracted players to John I Dent Cup teams and they play in Canberra when they're not playing Super Rugby. In the past, Brumbies players have returned to the Sydney or Brisbane competitions when not on Super duties.
White has already promoted eight local players into his pre-season training group and he wants to reward them with game time.
''It will give them a boost to play with Super Rugby players,'' he said.
''It's very important for us because then if we get an injury or two we can continue with players who have trained with us, know the calls …
''I want everyone to embrace and it and the club's to use this opportunity to help them attract some good players as well.''