Young talent lost in void October 13, 2008 http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news...e#contentSwap1 The career path for Toyota Cup graduates is far from clear, writes Glenn Jackson. Oh what a feeling! Yes, the Toyota Cup has been, largely, a success. A celebration of youth not seen in these parts since, well, World Youth Day. Both events were much-hyped, successful and took a lot of organising. But after the party, there was the revelation that it's all over. And then the clean-up. Where to now? The pilgrims headed home. But many Toyota Cup players are struggling to find one. Out of the 320 players from the initial squads of 20 selected by all 16 NRL clubs in the inaugural Toyota Cup - the under-20s competition that mirrors the NRL premiership, 152 - almost half - will be ineligible to play in the youth competition next year. Many are in danger of being forced out of the game. Sure, a number of them will be drafted into NRL squads, but the rest will be sent into a funny old place that is both no man's land and man's land. The main NSW over-age competition, the tier below the NRL, is the NSW Cup - what used to be premier league and, even further back, reserve grade. But the cost of fielding such teams means only Cronulla and the Bulldogs will do so in the NSW Cup in name and colours next year. The Bulldogs are seriously considering changing that for the following season, for the bill is somewhere in the region of $500,000 - or what used to be Sonny Bill Williams's annual wage. Manly will do away with their NSW Cup side, and are attempting to set up a link between the NRL club and Belrose, which would play in the over-age competition and nurture the talent. Other players are likely to turn out for Manly's feeder club in Queensland, the Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles. "That's always been our issue with the Toyota Cup - we need to have a sustainable over-age competition," Manly chief executive Grant Mayer said. Take one of the club's major off-season recruits - hulking youngster Tony Williams. He was brought over to the Sea Eagles from Parramatta amid much fanfare, but who is to say he will be playing in the premiership-winning NRL side at the beginning of next season? Sea Eagles wingers David Williams and Michael Robertson, who scored four tries between them in the grand final, won't just be moving aside for the bigger guy (even if he does have 18 kilograms on the biggest of them, Williams). Williams can play in other positions, but one thing is certain - he will not be playing in the Toyota Cup, having been born exactly 20 days too early to be eligible for the youth competition next year (the criteria is being aged under 20 on January 1). The growing feeling is that the competition should become an under-21s or under-22s tournament. "It's certainly an issue for the game," Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg said. "We haven't got the balance right for players who are 21, 22, 23." Queensland-based clubs feel they are in a better position because their players can switch to the more hardened and more successful Queensland Cup. So much so that the Broncos will send their best talent into their feeder teams from that competition next year rather than the Toyota Cup. For instance, Toyota Cup player of the year Ben Hunt, 19 in March, will not play in the competition next year. "The progression, especially for the bigger forwards, should be Toyota Cup into Queensland Cup into the NRL," Brisbane chief executive Bruno Cullen said. "The Queensland Cup, if nothing else, is a more mature competition. Guys will be playing against men." However, Gold Coast's managing director, Michael Searle - whose ineligible players will turn out for Ipswich and Tweed Heads - said: "Some of the guys in their 20s do feel that the Queensland Cup is a step back for them. They're not travelling, they're not playing in the Titans strip." There's the rub. For those who liked the taste of the Toyota Cup, with the interstate and overseas flights, the bigger crowds and the exposure, having to play at Ringrose Park in Wentworthville in front of a couple of hundred people will not satisfy them. One player manager said a client had asked him where he could play next year. Already 20 years old, he is ineligible for the Toyota Cup. The manager told him he could play for Windsor or Wentworthville, or any of the other NSW Cup sides. "But he said he didn't want to play for them - he wanted to play for Manly or Penrith or Newcastle or the Tigers Ã¢Â€Â¦"