(Thanks to QT, Jay Buchan and Rob Williams)
BRONCOS legend Kerrod Walters went from playing Ipswich juniors to becoming one of Brisbane’s great players.
Now that opportunity is open to all 3500 young Ipswich juniors thanks to a historic agreement between the Ipswich Jets, Ipswich Junior Rugby League, Ipswich Rugby League and the Broncos.
The bodies have agreed to a three-year affiliation which will provide a direct pathway for junior players to the NRL.
Walters played 182 games for the Broncos in a stellar career that also included two seasons and 41 games with Adelaide.
The former Ipswich resident said the new partnership was “great for the juniors of Ipswich because it gives them a local pathway to go to the next level”.
“I played juniors at Ipswich from under-7s to under-18s, then went on to the Jets and the Broncos,” Walters said.
“Me and Alfie (Allan Langer) were lucky that we could play all our junior footy in Ipswich. Then the Jets came along in 1986 and the Broncos in 1988.
“We had the same pathway to stay in our home town and play at the highest level. Now there is a definite pathway for the kids who play their junior footy in Ipswich.
“It is a great stepping stone.”
IRL chairman Jack Rhea has watched a steady stream of Ipswich’s best young players leave the area and be lost to the senior competition.
He said the new partnership would reverse that trend.
“Since 2009 when the Cyril Connell and Mal Meninga competitions started, we have lost 20 young players from this area that have gone to NSW-based NRL clubs,” he said.
“Now with this link hopefully we can keep most of those blokes here.”
Ipswich Junior Rugby League chairman David Nugent said the liaison would benefit children and the coaches.
“Our big drive in seeking an NRL affiliation has been for two reasons – to get access to their heroes for the kids and to get access to the skills and knowledge at that NRL level and transfer it down to the grass roots,” he said.
“Over the three years there will be three or four sessions a year out here where our coaches will have access to the Broncos coaching staff and trainers.
“As part of the agreement, we will get appearances down at training sessions and merchandise like posters and stickers that the kids will enjoy.”
Broncos great Allan Langer said Ipswich is a great family area. He was thrilled young players will have the same kind of opportunities he did.
“I have been wanting this to happen for years,” Langer said. “Being from the Jets, I have always wanted the Broncos to be part of the club, so it is great to see this finally happen.”
Broncos’ chief executive Paul White said the club was pleased to make the entire Ipswich rugby league fraternity part of the Broncos’ pathway.
“We were approached to be part of this and we were very happy to be,” White said.
“Ipswich is a rugby league heartland, they have a very engaged rugby league community and the Broncos have a very strong season membership base in the area.
“That the three tiers of rugby league in the area are involved is a wonderful thing for the game in Ipswich and for the Broncos club.”