Ella joins Rugby Australia in search of First Nations talent

Former Australian Wallaby great, Glen Ella, who made his test debut with the Australian team in 1982 and who was later the Wallabies assistant coach for the 1995 Rugby World Cup campaign, is part of the Rugby Australia First Nations talent ID tour that will visit Cobar tomorrow. Photo contributed

Former Australian Wallaby great Glen Ella and the Rugby Australia High-Performance team will be in Cobar tomorrow night as part of their talent ID tour to unearth Indigenous talent around the country.

The #dreamBigTime tour kicked off on Monday in Bathurst and is winding through remote regions including Walgett, Wilcannia, Coober Pedy and Alice Springs over the next two weeks.

It will be one of three major talent ID tours carried out over the next three months in order to reach all corners of Australia to find the next wave of First Nations talent to follow the likes of Kurtley Beale, Maurice Longbottom and Mahalia Murphy on the pathway to the gold jersey.

Following the three road trips the top 130 players will be flown to Sydney for a four-day camp in July where their skills will be put to the test in front of a panel of national coaches.

Two squads of 20 will then be chosen to represent two First Nations Sevens sides who will compete in five domestic and two international tournaments.

Former Australian Men’s Sevens Assistant Coach Jarred Hodges is leading this project with the support of Rugby Australia and the Member Unions.

“Being a descendant of the First Nations People and having worked with the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team for more than two decades, I am incredibly passionate about this project,” Hodges said.

“Together with the Member Unions we’ve undertaken extensive research to pinpoint locations with the highest First Nations population where there is no doubt huge sporting potential.

“The excitement is building in these communities and we’re expecting to engage more than 500 players aged 14-25 on the first trip.

“We will also ensure this won’t be a one-off visit as we will work with the Member Unions to re-visit each of these communities and keep tapping into existing talent,’’ Hodges said.

Qantas Wallabies legend Glen Ella, who played and later coached the Wallabies, will also be joining the #dreamBigTime tour and said linking communities with the High-Performance team has been a vision of his for a long time.

“I’m confident we will uncover some incredible talent as we know First Nations Peoples are a natural fit for Sevens who can run fast and find space,” Ella said.

“This is the only footy code in the country which offers international exposure and one where you can be fast-tracked to the top in just a matter of months.

“Our long-term goal for this project will be to have at least two players join the Australian Sevens squads for the 2024 Olympics which is looking promising,’’ he said.

Rugby Australia has also partnered with the Aboriginal Medical Services in each of the towns to promote the importance of keeping healthy both on and off the field.