Falcons' plan to find next Cooper Cronk on Fraser Coast
THE NEXT Melbourne Storm superstar could be unearthed on the Fraser Coast if a new Sunshine Coast Falcons plan reaches its full potential.
Fraser Coast Chronicle can exclusively reveal the Intrust Super Cup club will establish the Falcons Fraser Coast Development Squad in 2016, which could discover a future superstar like Cooper Cronk.
The squad will involve 20 Fraser Coast-based players aged between 16 and 18 in its first year, as well as up to five promising South Burnett footballers.
Falcons football operations manager Dane Campbell said the plan not only expands the Sunshine Coast club's catchment area, which currently ranges from Bribie Island to Gympie, but also gives thousands of juniors Fraser Coast footballers a pathway to higher levels of rugby league.
Sunshine Coast is affiliated with the Storm, giving Fraser Coast juniors a direct path to the NRL for the first time.
"We've seen a few young blokes from the Coast come down to trial for Colts but this will give them the chance to develop closer to home," Campbell said.
"We are very big on welfare, and (Sunshine Coast) isn't too far from home for the kids (when they come down). It lets them stay at home until they're ready to make the move."
The Falcons program will be chiefly driven by Campbell and Sunshine Coast captain Tom Murphy, while Hervey Bay Seagulls coach Tye Ingebrigtsen and NRL game development officer Scott Zahra will also keep a close eye on the players.
The squad will go into a preseason camp at Sunshine Coast Stadium in February, which will coincide with the Storm's trial against Wests Tigers.
It will be the first time Falcons staff work with the players, and will double as an introduction to both the program, and the club's expectations.
The Falcons will then lead players in monthly training sessions split between Maryborough and Hervey Bay.
At the end of 2016 the squad will travel to the Falcons' base to play against a Sunshine Coast Development Squad, where coaches will keep a close eye on players for their Colts team.
Ingebrigtsen, whose dad Craig is the Falcons' head coach, said they had worked on the program for several months.
"It's a massive stepping stone for the future plans of Fraser Coast Rugby League," Ingebrigtsen said.
"There's that carrot at the end - to get a few kids picked up by Sunshine Coast's Colts team. You perform at those trials and you can be picked, and Sunshine Coast will give them the best opportunity."
The program will act as a pilot for the first 12 months, and if successful could see the Falcons launch a similar squad based in South Burnett.
"If it's successful we'll expand it," Campbell said.
"We've got the catchment between Bribie Island and Gympie, but we also see the Fraser Coast, South Burnett and Bundaberg as areas we can provide pathways."