Rugby Australia have announced that they are to make significant changes to Junior and Senior rugby, adopting a Size for Age policy aimed at ensuring maximum safety and enjoyment for all participants. They will also introduce a Blue Card concussion management system.
The new guidelines, similar to what New Zealand have in place at junior level, will 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).
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.
BLUE CARD – concussion management tool for Junior, Schools and Senior Rugby
Another new change is the adoption of the Blue Card system, which was trialled in 2017. It will be rolled out across all competitions nationally in 2018.
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.
HOW IT WORKS
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.
Rugby Australia Head of Rugby Services, Lachlan Clark said: “The Blue Card system will be in place across all Rugby nationally from under 13 to National Rugby Championship (NRC) level, enhancing Rugby’s commitment to protecting players from the rare occurrence of concussion.
“There will be ongoing structured education of match officials, medical attendants, coaches and team managers in the signs and symptoms and management of concussion.
“Our commitment to protect players from head injuries is reinforced with strict high tackle laws with the understanding that the head is sacred across all levels of the game. The Blue Card system reinforces that player safety is paramount in our game.”
The Size for Age Guidelines mean that we will no longer see these type of mismatches in Australia