Junior rugby league provides handy ladder to senior game
Rugby League is probably the fastest, toughest team sport in the world, and it is no wonder that its excitement draws in many at a young age.
However, the full-blooded intensity of Super League or the NRL is not to be expected at junior rugby league clubs, which operate a series of different levels for different ages.
The rules for each of these levels of game differ slightly, providing a carefully structured ladder which takes complete beginners to the game at Under-6 level, right through to the first 13-a-side games at Under-11 level.
The Under-6 age group are known as 'Cubs', and the emphasis for this level is on having fun and developing some basic skills, centring on ball handling and evasion. Games are played with four players on each side.
As the players move through the Under-7, Under-8 and Under-9 age groups, they play nine versus nine games, and are known as 'Minis'. This is the level where tackling is introduced, as is goal kicking.
Kicking from the hand is introduced at Under-10, or 'Mod' level, as are passive scrums with five players from each side.
This leads players into the Under-11, or 'Transition' level. Here, games are played with 11, 12 or 13 players a side, with teams forming five or six-player passive scrums.
During the 'Mod' and 'Transition' levels players move on from enjoyment and learning how to handle the rugby ball, to defensive work and structure, and subsequently to more sophisticated tactical and strategic understanding of the game.
Full details of which birthdays currently qualify for which age group can be found at the Rugby Football League (RFL)'s official website at Therfl.co.uk. The greater specifics of the game and how to coach it to different age groups can also be found there, as the RFL battles to establish a fundamental youth structure to match the formidable Australians.
Details of where to find local junior rugby league clubs can also be found there, along with information about setting one up.