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Mythbusting about junior rugby league: Parents' burning questions answered.

Junior League
Thanks to our brand partner, Junior League

Playing sport in my household is mandatory. Both my husband and I grew up playing everything under the sun; it was how we let off steam, practised different skills and got to spend time with our friends on the weekends. Now that we have a child of our own, she too is getting a taste of everything that sport has to offer.

Last year it was AFL, the year before that it was soccer. This year she’s tossing up between netball and junior rugby league however, when we mention junior league to other parents (especially those with girls), they sometimes raise an eyebrow or wince in pain. When I ask why, it’s the usual suspects – “It’s so dangerous!”, “That’s not a game for girls!”, “She’s going to get hurt!”

After hearing the same things over and over again I decided two things:

1. My daughter can play whatever she wants.

2. Kids play rugby league differently. What you see on TV – a competitive sports match between adults – is a different ball game (pardon the pun).

I collected my friends’ concerns and enlisted the help of someone who knew first hand about junior league: Roxanne Black, Under 6’s Coach of the All Saints Toongabbie Tigers and super mum to three kids who all play rugby league (U6’s, U’11s and U14’s). And guess what? Two of them are girls. Squeeee!

Roxy says her family love Junior Rugby League. Image: Supplied.

Let's bust some myths.

Myth 1: It's dangerous and aggressive.

The most common thing that a lot of parents I know fear is that rugby league is dangerous. They worry that it’s all head knocks, busted shoulders and bloody mouths when in reality, as Roxanne says, all sports come with their risks.

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"My son is about to play his seventh season of footy and he hasn’t had any major injuries," she tells me. "My oldest daughter is about to play her third season and the same goes for her, in comparison to her netball seasons, which would always see her out with injury for a couple of games and frequent rehab visits to the physio."

So rugby league does come with a risk of injury, but no more than any other sport.

"As a parent, I have provided my children with mouth guards, protective body padding and headgear," Roxanne explains, adding that strapping from a trained professional can also help if your child could do with a little strength assistance in some area of their body.

But the responsibility to keep your kids safe also lies with the coaches, who are trained to a high standard.

"The NRL provides fantastic courses for training staff of the club to provide our children with the knowledge of how to safely and correctly make a tackle and how to brace, position and fall safely, when contact is made," she says.

Myth 2. It's a boys' sport.

"Of course your daughter can play!" Roxanne says when I ask. "I have two daughters, one 13 and the other is six. My eldest is about to enjoy her third season and my youngest played her first season last year. It was most enjoyable being the coach of the under 6’s as I was able to run alongside her, during her first try/ tackle. It was great!"

Both of her daughters made friends through their teams, and the camaraderie has been a huge reason why they love playing.

"A highlight of our season was when over 50 of the girls whom play for our club, caught the train into North Sydney oval to witness history in the making: The Harvey Norman Women’s State of Origin," she says. "This was very inspiring for the young girls and women who already play and it was great to be a part of it."

There are so many amazing female players for them to look up to. Image: Supplied.
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Myth 3. The coaches are just parents and aren't trained.

Unlike quite a few sports, the NRL require all coaches to complete formal training via online modules in addition to a coaching course in person.

"Experts from the NRL took us through ball skills, defence, attacking drills and provided us information on the game, the rules and modifications," Roxanne explains from her experience.

"The junior rugby league club provided strong support through the guidance of other more experienced and knowledgeable coaches. The very handy NRL My League app also provides useful drills for coaches to use for all ages."

Coaches like Roxanne can also take further courses to amplify the skills that she can offer the young ones in her teams.

Myth 4. Kids aren't prepared enough for playing on the weekend.

When the junior league season starts, the kids aren’t expected to just chuck on their kit and run onto the field.

For Roxanne’s littlies, "We trained for an hour during the week and half hour before the big game, just to refresh our memories of the rules and plays. You’d be surprised how fast something like playing the ball can be forgotten in Under 6s".

As they get older, Roxanne’s children trained twice a week and an hour before the game which during these training sessions, great attention was placed on the warming up, stretching out and cooling down of the bodies which again, assist in the prevention of injuries.

Myth 5. Parents at footy games are silenced.

Look, no-one wants to be the overbearing parent at a child's sports match. But are there easy ways to get involved so it's fun for us adults too?

"Most definitely," Roxanne says. "Everyone can and should get involved."

While it's perfectly OK to spectate and just enjoy the atmosphere, there are also many roles that assist in the success of just one junior rugby league game.

"From the coach and manager, to the dad who cuts up oranges for half time. There’s cheerleaders, the people that set up the fields, the crew on the barbecue/canteen, time keepers, first aid and many more. There is always something you can do to get involved," Roxanne adds.

Teamwork makes the dream work. Image: Supplied.
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Final thoughts after chatting to Roxanne.

Yes, all sports can pose some form of a risk for the players but when the right training, people, equipment and attitudes are put in place, it creates an amazing environment for children to learn, grow and build relationships within a team.

As they say, teamwork makes the dream work and once a year, my daughter dreams of what sport she will play.

If your does too, I would absolutely consider checking out junior league. It’s for all kids aged six to 12 and you can register them to play at your local rugby league club. Find yours now.

Does your child play junior league? Tell us your experience below.

Like to have your opinion heard? Like $100 even more? Take our quick survey now for your chance to win one of three $100 vouchers.

 

Junior League

Junior rugby league registrations are now open nationally. For more details on local junior clubs and age-specific rule variations visit www.playrugbyleague.com

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