Athletes in the Riverina could benefit from a new partnership between the NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) and regional sports academies, including the Southern Sports Academy, which aims to provide better pathways to elite sport.
The four-year partnership, timed to coincide with the Olympic cycle, will address a "fundamental gap" in the national high performance system, according to NSWIS boss Kevin Thompson.
The aim is to develop coaches, identify emerging athletes and nurture talent through to the elite level, and have more NSW athletes representing Australia at major international events.
Southern Sports Academy CEO, Mark Calverley, said it's a great result for the region's aspiring sports stars.
"We are delighted to formally announce this partnership as it will ensure that the Southern Sports Academy's critical support will further enhance our regional athletes' ability to achieve their sporting ambitions, represent NSW in state teams and in some cases represent Australia and compete internationally," Calverley said.
"The partnership will see SSA work with NSWIS to provide a greater level talent identification and long term athlete monitoring for NSWIS programs, as well as the potential of sports transfer athletes into the future."
He said it will raise the standard of SSA programs as coaches and athletes will gain access to NSWIS sports science personnel and high performance environments.
The Acting NSW Minister for Sport, Geoff Lee, praised the partnership saying it will help athletes right across NSW realise their potential.
Ian Robilliard, who chairs Regional Academies of Sport (RASi), said it's about improving pathways for regional athletes.
"RASi has a proud history of supporting the development of regional athletes and coaches. As well as creating 187 jobs supporting the regional community across the state, we take great pride in the holistic support and wellbeing messages we provide to our younger generation of future leaders," Robilliard said.
"This partnership allows us to further build upon our legacy and help nurture the next crop of Australian sporting stars and world class coaches hailing from regional areas."
Currently, 620 athletes have progressed from RASi to represent Australia, with 34 competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The network currently has around 2500 athletes and 750 coaches and volunteers.