Emerald’s Mace Hartley and Connor Jones with Middlemount’s Josh Hedley are among the latest Central Highlands rugby recruits to join the ARU’s Junior Gold Program.
Emerald’s Mace Hartley and Connor Jones with Middlemount’s Josh Hedley are among the latest Central Highlands rugby recruits to join the ARU’s Junior Gold Program.

Central Highlands has best rugby

THE rugby stage is set to get a whole lot bigger for these three Central Highlands juniors, with selection in the Australian Rugby Union's Junior Gold Program.

Emerald's Connor Jones and Mace Hartley, together with Middlemount's Josh Hedley, Clermont's Hugh Fordyce and Robert Fuz from Moranbah, are the latest regional representatives to get their foot in the door at a national level.

In total just 19 players from around regional Queensland, from Bowen to Bundaberg, were chosen for the talent development program.

Queensland Rugby's Central Queensland regional development manager Dan Hooper said the local Highlands players were in elite company.

"They are five of the top few in the program," Hooper said.

"Their decision-making is really good, they have a good sense of the game and their attitude is a big tick."

The representatives are currently just one level below the ARU National Gold Program, which is a Brisbane-based academy and encompasses just 90 players from all over the country.

"They are five of the top few in the program."

CQ development manager Dan Hooper

The junior trialists will have at least two, possibly three training camps throughout the year, with an ARU talent coach attending each looking for players' potential to make it in the National Gold squad.

Ultimately, each of these players now has a direct pathway to national and Super 15 representation which unsurprisingly, is exactly where Middlemount player Josh Hedley wants to be.

"I want to try and get a scholarship somewhere and play Super 15," Hedley said.

With five CH players already on the books, Hooper said the talent just kept on coming with more local juniors knocking on the door.

"There are at least another half dozen players right on the cusp of selection," Hooper said.

"And these players can be added to the program at any time should their performances during the regional sessions warrant it."


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