Age limit for Kelly Cup

The traditional clash between Group Nine and Group 20 will move to under 23s, in line with changes made to the Country Championships.

Group Nine celebrates a try against Group 20 in the Kelly Cup clash at Equex Centre in 2015.

Group Nine celebrates a try against Group 20 in the Kelly Cup clash at Equex Centre in 2015.

Changes were announced to the Country Championships on Friday, to replace the senior titles with an under 23 tournament, and the Kelly Cup will follow suit.

Group Nine president John Morton said the move was made to ensure the clash remained a selection trial of the Riverina team to play in the Country Championships.

Morton is supportive of the idea to move away from open age representative teams, believing it will take pressure off clubs.

“I think it is a good move,” Morton said.

“I think it is good for the clubs as the players clubs bring in are generally older players than 23.

“They won’t lose those players now to rep football.

“When they are away it is always tough on clubs as they pay the money to them and run the risk of getting them hurt or they are away for the day.

He didn’t believe there was a big future to selecting players pushing 30 “who have been there and done that”.

It is also an opportunity for the next generation of stars to take centre stage.

Morton believes the depth of talent is there to remain competitive at the restricted age group.

Dave Cowhan, Nathan Rose and Aaron Slater all played on the Country Bulls tour last year and will still be eligible next season.

Others expected to be in consideration for the team include Dane O’Hehir, Tyron Gorman, Sam Elwin while Albury recruit Jarrod Brackenhofer is also eligible.

“We will be alright, we have numbers there and Dave (Skinner) has already been through all the age groups for us,” Morton said.

“There are plenty of names there.” 

Josh Cale has coached Riverina for the last two seasons and believes the move will be a positive one.

He said it is an exciting opportunity and hopes it can help further pathways to higher levels of football.

“Obviously there are a few blokes who will miss the senior one, but is was getting hard trying to find players who are available,” Cale said.

“When they get a little older it makes it a little bit harder.”

Country Rugby League chief executive Terry Quinn believes the new format will provide greater opportunities for regional players to higher honours.

The new-look Country Championships is yet to be finalised although Riverina is expected to remain unchanged.

The competition will be a 10-team knockout split into north and south with the winners of each region to play in the grand final.

While not confirmed yet, it is expected the Group Nine All Stars match will remain an open-age fixture.

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