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The NRL yesterday launched a national under-20s competition, the Toyota Cup, for 2008 with emphasis being placed on the development of players both on and off the field.
The competition will involve all 16 NRL clubs and will kick off in 2008. Part of the criteria is to have specific guidelines in place to ensure the young footballers are developing themselves away from the game with off-field education and traineeships. In addition, clubs cannot train during business hours on three working days of each week.
Every team will have a designated welfare officer to accompany the team on all away trips and assist the rookies in planning for off-field career options.
Former first grader and international Michael Buettner has been named competition manager.
"Players accept today that professionalism is about life both on and off the field but most of the older players have had to learn that after making first grade," Buettner said.
"From the moment a player makes it into the Toyota Cup the message will be loud and clear that the first step will be to start building for life after football."
NRL boss David Gallop praised the national under-20s competition as an exciting addition heading into the centenary of rugby league.
"It's fitting that the game's centenary year will be marked with a new competition aimed at the next generation of stars," he said.