Public school pipeline to rugby league greatness

The NRL/NRLW grand finals feature more than their share of former NSW public school students – a trend that’s set to continue. Glenn Cullen reports.

Image: Eel be right: Parramatta player Reagan Campbell-Gillard back in his Hills Sports High School days.

New South Wales public schools continue to foster some of the best rugby league talent in the world, with exceptional representation of alumni in both the NRL and NRLW grand finals on Sunday.

Former public school students playing in the deciders could literally form their own men’s and women’s teams, such is the depth of talent that has come from the system.

No fewer than 14 ex-public school students will take to the field when Parramatta play Penrith in the men’s showdown.

Hills Sports High School’s former stars Dylan Brown, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Oregon Kaufusi will all run out for the Eels alongside Shaun Lane and Waqa Blake (Endeavour Sports High School).

The latter pair will face off against one of their former schoolmates in Scott Sorensen, who has been named in the Panthers’ 17 alongside former Rooty Hill High School student Brian To’o and West Wyalong High School’s former captain Liam Martin.

Thirteen Parramatta NRLW players that came through 13 different public schools (including Hills), will feature for the Eels in their clash with Newcastle – who also have their share of representatives from the public system.

And that trend of public schools feeding the higher echelons of the sport looks set to continue.

Image: National honour: Harry Hassett has been named Australian Schoolboys’ captain.

Hills in particular had an outstanding year to make the finals of the NSW Schoolboys’ Cup, shaded in the most dramatic of circumstances with a try from a charge-down kick in the last two minutes of play.

Hills coach Scott Jones said the loss was a tough one to swallow but he chose to focus on what is most certainly a very bright bigger picture.

“It’s all about development. Not just players, but developing good, young men,” he said.

“The biggest success is what we see now – having four players in the NRL/NRLW grand finals.”

In a further boon for the school, standout Hills backrower Harry Hassett has just been named captain of the Australian Schoolboys’ team.

Peter Banks, Leader, School Sport Unit was delighted to see so many athletes come through the public school system.

“Our public schools foster, support and develop skills in student athletes,” he said.

“Having so many past students playing in this year’s NRL/NRLW grand final is wonderful and a reward for their many hours of training and dedication to their chosen sport.”

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