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CRL chief executive Malcolm Humm said it would provide players and coaches with “unprecedented development opportunities and pathways to progress to Australia’s elite age-group and senior men’s and women’s competitions.”
It would potentially lead to positions with the Sydney club, he said.
“As part of our 2023-26 strategic plan, a key goal is that ‘pathway opportunities are fostered through strategic partnerships’. We believe this agreement with Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs is going to have a significant impact on the development of players and coaches in Canterbury, as well as the wider South Island region.
“To have access to the knowledge and experience of such a quality and successful club such as the Bulldogs is both exciting and one hell of a privilege.”
The aim is to support players identified by the Bulldogs to transition to an Australian competition, whether it be their Harold Matthews Cup (under-17s), SG Ball Cup (under-19s), Jersey Flegg (under-21s) and Tarsha Gale Cup (women’s under-18s) teams, or their Harvey Norman Women’s, NSW Cup, NRL and future NRLW premiership squads.
Said Humm: “Although some of the detail is still to be worked through, we have agreed that Canterbury-based coaches and players will be recipients of coaching clinics led by Bulldogs coaching personnel, whilst both entities want to ensure that identified players and coaches from the Canterbury region have the opportunity to be immersed within the club’s environment in camp scenarios.
“There are numerous ways in which we can benefit each other, and we are just excited to get to this point and commence the operational plan.”
Canterbury Rugby League harbours strong links with the Bulldogs stretching back more than half a century. Linwood, Canterbury and New Zealand Test prop Bill Noonan famously became the first major signing made by legendary Bulldogs secretary Peter ‘Bullfrog’ Moore in 1970.
Noonan was the first Kiwi (along with teammate Henry Tatana) to feature in a NSWRL premiership grand final – Canterbury-Bankstown’s loss to Eastern Suburbs in the 1974 decider – and played 161 games in the blue-and-white jersey before linking with Newtown in 1979.
Hornby Kiwi Marty Crequer turned out for the Bulldogs in 1991, while winger Jason Williams played in the 1994-95 grand finals – winning a premiership medal in the latter year – during a 73-game tenure with the club.
More recently, former Hornby junior Fa’amanu Brown is currently enjoying his second NRL stint with the Bulldogs. Halswell product Montel Lisala has played for their Jersey Flegg and Ron Massey Cup sides this year, and Northern’s Bronson Reuben and
Hornby’s Sosaia Alatini starred in the Bulldogs’ recent Harold Matthews Cup title success in a team coached by former Halswell stalwart Shannon Rushworth.
Linwood’s Chelden Hayward, a member of the Canterbury 18s team that competed in the recent South Island boys youth tournament, is already benefiting from the Bulldogs’ pathways programme while being able to remain here.
Said Bulldogs general manager of pathways Adam Hartigan: “Importantly, kids can be afforded the opportunity to develop their talent without needing to be relocated at an early age, and away from their home, schooling life and families.
“Rather, this partnership will support coach development so that Canterbury junior league players can access premier coaching and programs at home, whilst still being afforded a clear and visible pathway to the NRL or NRLW.
“Chelden Hayward is a great example of how this pathway model works. With the upskilling of CRL coaches Chelden can stay at home, complete his schooling, and mature before the need to move Australia.”