POSITIVE LINKS: NRL head of football Brian Canavan, Mustangs coach Dean Bosnich, Titans CEO Tony Mestrov, Mustangs chairman Paul Reedy and QRL head of football Neil Whart .
POSITIVE LINKS: NRL head of football Brian Canavan, Mustangs coach Dean Bosnich, Titans CEO Tony Mestrov, Mustangs chairman Paul Reedy and QRL head of football Neil Whart . Contributed

Mustangs and Titans committed to player development

IT IS an exciting time to be a junior rugby league player in the South Burnett, with announcements from the Western Mustangs and Gold Coast Titans to drastically improve the representative pathway.

Formerly the Toowoomba Clydesdales, the Western Mustangs announced earlier this month they had reached a two-year agreement with the Titans to associate their teams throughout Toowoomba and south-west Queensland.

Players surplus to Titans requirements will be offered to the Mustangs, with players moving in the other direction if they impress.

With the South Burnett now included in the Western Mustangs catchment area following the transition from the Clydesdales, juniors will be exposed to high- performance development coaching previously unavailable to them.

It also provides a clear pathway to the NRL for talented players, without them having to move to metropolitan centres such as Brisbane or Sydney to pursue their dreams.

QRL central division manager Glenn Ottaway said the announcement was crucial in providing South Burnett juniors with the coaching to succeed.

"What this does is bring development to them,” Ottaway said.

"They'll be part of the Mustangs program, and the Mustangs will have coaches on the ground in Kingaroy week to week, month to month.

"So that when the time does come to move (to further pursue rugby league) they've had consistent development opportunities,” he said.

"We don't want any kid to be still finishing Year 12 and relocating for football, there's no need for it.”

The Mustangs are pushing to return to the Queensland Cup after more than a decade out of the top-tier state competition, and Ottaway said for the QRL, a commitment to development outside the Toowoomba area was an important step.

"The Mustangs are in the process of putting a bid together for the Intrust Super Cup,” he said.

"The first step in the QRL's eyes would be a regional approach to their footy program rather than isolating one town.

"Their rebranding is largely to do with that, so there's an understanding that the Western Mustangs are not solely a Toowoomba team.”

Trials for the Mustangs under-18 and under-20 representative sides were held at the weekend, and the teams will compete in a trial state-wide competition at the start of 2017 .

Under-18 South Burnett players will still represent the Central Crows through the Mal Meninga Cup competition, but have further opportunities through Mustang development squads before transitioning to the Toowoomba-based club for under-20s and above.

"This emphasises why we're happy for the Mustangs to handle development in those areas, because the Crows don't offer an under-20s team as part of the state-wide competition,” Ottaway said.

"Once the under-18s in the South Burnett graduate from the Crows we hope they can become part of the Falcons or Western Mustangs program,” he said.

South Burnett junior academy coach Mitchell Sargent said after moving to the Burnett he noticed there was no clear pathway for juniors to progress.

"(Mustangs under-18/20 coach) Dean Bosnich was just going to involve south- west Queensland and the Darling Downs,” Sargent said.

"I played for the Clydesdales all my life, so when I first moved to the Burnett and saw players didn't have the pathways available I thought I needed to help the clubs and players out here,” he said.

"This just means there's going to be a pathway for boys and later down the track girls to play representative rugby league and stay home to finish school.

"Too many players in our area have to leave early to pursue a sporting career.

"This allows them to stay home and then make a closer move to Toowoomba and still play high level rugby league.”

Sargent said the South Burnett junior academy players would be announced tomorrow, exposing the players to training structures and programs used by the Mustangs and Gold Coast Titans.

"A lot of the kids haven't had a pre-season before, so they'll get a taste of what pre-season training is like,” Sargent said.

"It will give them more experience not only with the strength and conditioning training, but also the mental side of rugby league.

"Getting the kids exposed to what a professional rugby league environment is, rather than just coming to training two days a week and kicking a ball around.”

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