Rugby Australia (Rugby AU) will soon announce changes to Junior and Senior Rugby aimed at ensuring maximum safety and enjoyment for all participants, with the introduction of new national Size for Age guidelines (Junior Clubs and Schools) and the Blue Card concussion management system (All Clubs and Schools).These changes, which are explained below, will make Rugby a more appealing sport for our students, reinforce our sport’s firm commitment to Player Welfare and maximizing the enjoyment for people who play our game.Over the coming days, Rugby AU will push the below changes in the media to announce the changes to the wider public.
We believe the below changes will make Rugby a significantly more enjoyable experience for what it already is for our young men and women and assist in increasing participation across the country, whilst also creating a stronger conversion between students continuing their Rugby once they leave school.
Size for Age Guidelines – For Junior and Schools Rugby
Rugby AU’s new Size for Age guidelines enable individual players to be moved into a different age group following an assessment of physical and personal development factors including height, weight, playing experience, fitness and maturity.
The current participation policy allows for a player to be moved across any one of four age grades (including their true age group, one age group below, or up to two age groups above their true age group).
From 2018, all Under 10 to Under 15 players deemed to be below or above an accepted height and weight range will now be subject to mandatory assessment by a qualified, independent Coach to determine which age bracket they are most suited to playing.
Prior to the introduction of these guidelines, there was no standardised approach to mandating the assessment of individual players for size and age dispensation.
The changes are being implemented in 2018 following an extensive research project conducted by Rugby Australia in partnership with Sydney Junior Rugby Union, Brumbies Rugby and the Australian Catholic University.
The study, which has been completed over a two-year period, found that weight alone was not a strong enough factor to consider moving a player up or down in age group.
The guidelines and the associated Coach Accreditation program, provide a clear process for coaches, team managers, Clubs, Schools and competition managers to follow in order to clarify the appropriate age grade for a participant deemed less or more physically developed than their age peers.
The Age Grade Dispensation Procedure is the mechanic that empowers Member Unions, School Conveners, Competition Managers and State Heads of Game Development to recommend or mandate players play in a specific age grade based on safety for either that participant or other participants.
It is important to stress that the safety of junior Rugby players takes priority over any team requirements, such as filling squads or winning games.
Blue Card – Concussion management tool for all Junior, Schools and Senior Rugby
The Blue Card system, which was trialled in 2017, will be rolled out across all competitions nationally in 2018 ensuring Rugby continues to lead the way in concussion management for individual players.
Team management, medical staff and match officials have always had the responsibility to remove a player from the field if they are presenting signs and symptoms of concussion. The new Blue Card ensures the recording of such an incident, and formally triggers an off-field process to begin.
Once a player is shown a blue card by the match official, they cannot participate any further in the match and are required to undergo a mandatory medical assessment and then follow a set program before returning to Rugby.As a reminder there is a minimum period of 19 days under the Return to Play Policy if a player has shown no further symptoms of concussion since the first occurrence.
Rugby AU in partnership with the State Unions will be training officials and competition managers in recognising the symptoms of concussion to ensure the smooth transition of Blue Card around the country.
Rugby AU understands that change can be difficult, but rest assured these changes are imperative to keeping Rugby adaptive to the needs of the current sporting public and especially important in the winning the hearts and minds of young parents in choosing our game for their children.
We expect these changes to have a positive effect on the number of students playing Rugby and increase the enjoyment people will have from playing our game.