By HARRY CLARKE
JUNIOR representative football carnivals are now being called “participation” events – where no scores are kept and no awards are given – under new bans imposed by Queensland Rugby League but described as “absurd” by local organisers.
The renowned annual Zone 5 junior rugby league carnivals are underway this month, involving sixteen Under-10 and Under-12 teams spanning from Brisbane’s bayside to outback Cunnamulla.
Past players include Darren Lockyer, Shane Webcke and Petero Civoniceva, according to an online petition created in protest of new rules now affecting the event format.
The Zone 5 carnivals have been running since 1969 and, until this year, crowned a winning team and recognised individual excellence with trophies for ‘best and fairest’, ‘best forward’ and ‘best back’ from each team and overall.
Now, not only have the awards been sent to the sin bin, but organisers are being ordered by QRL not to keep scores of the games, in a controversial attempt to avoid disheartening participants.
“It’s crap,” one of the young players told the Caller on the second day of the Under-12 carnival.
Several parents and even the canteen ladies said they were bewildered about the fact that the on-field score for each game had suddenly become a taboo subject.
“It’s ridiculous. Every kid gets a ribbon,” one parent said sarcastically.
“These carnivals have been happening for fifty years with no problem. I can’t see why they (QRL) decided they’ve got to change it.”
QRL central division manager Rob Crowe said the decision to ban points and awards was guided by “studies overseas” which focussed on why some children chose not to play rugby league.
“We call them participation carnivals,” Mr Crowe said.
“It’s under what the QRL calls the Player Development Framework, where kids of those age groups are there to play for the fun and participation, rather than being pressured to win and be the best and get trophies.
“The studies overseas have shown that whist some kids don’t mind it, we’ve got kids dropping out of the game because they’d rather go and play for fun in that age group.
“Our numbers aren’t improving in the younger age groups. They’re pretty steady, but they’re not improving, and that’s the major feedback.”
Clifton-based junior rugby league administrator Ian Brady has been president of the Under-10 carnival organising committee for 14 years.
He said many local rugby league officials in the region were flabbergasted about the new rules, and that there were plans to form a steering committee to challenge QRL’s decisions and “dish it out to them”.
“It’s a farce” Mr Brady said.
“It’s absurd to think you can’t award and recognise kids in junior rugby league for their achievements.
“Supposedly, giving these awards diminishes the mental well-being of the kids who didn’t win or get awards, but I think that’s a long bow to say the least.
“How do you pick up a kid and try get them to work harder in a team environment when they can’t see if they’re in front or behind? Kids are not dumb. They know when they’ve won a game of football.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Have your say in the comments section below.