RUGBY UNION: Taking a 'gap year' to travel and work is something of a right of passage in Australia with young school leavers heading for Europe and south-east Asia on trips of self-discovery (that are often cause for many sleepless nights for parents).
In preparation for the footy season, the Condamine Cods are hoping to entice young school leavers with a different kind of experience.
The new initiative - the Work and Rugby Experience (WARE) program - has been created to draw recent graduates to the region and to the club to ensure the longevity of both, Cods Club president Doug McNicholl explained.
"The fundamental underpinning of the program is we really want initiatives that are good for the club and good for the community," McNicholl said.
"It's not just about finding players. It's about encouraging and... connecting young people with employment opportunities and giving them that social outlet that they may not know exists in the rugby club."
School leavers join the program for a minimum of six months, playing for the Cods and working in agriculture production or industries.
The program has already generated interest from city kids, with half-a-dozen school leavers from Brisbane, Sydney and Toowoomba getting in contact.
Young people from all backgrounds who play rugby and have an interest in agriculture are encouraged by the Cods to apply, but McNicholl emphasised kids more likely to stay long term and become part of the community were given particular consideration.
"While it's great we're getting kids from everywhere... we'd like to see more local kids express interest," he said.
"We'd like to retain them and give them a (career) pathway locally."
The local employment opportunities the club is currently helping to fill so far include positions in the beef industry on farms and feedlotting businesses, trades in construction, plumbing and carpentry, and landscape work.
The avenues on the footy field were equally open, with players wanted in the Cods' A- and B-grade sides, plus their C-grade side - the Chinchilla River Rats.
"We're open to all opportunities," McNicholl said.
"Fundamentally we want to attract players and we'll do it any way we can.
"At the end of the day we're trying to attract school leavers. They can be from any background."
The Cods pre-season begins in early February, with their first round match kicking off on March 25.
Those interested in the WARE program can contact Cods President Doug McNicholl on 0439 275 794 or email@example.com.
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