WHEN Kurt Hancock first agreed to coach a Western Rams junior side he spoke of the importance the program played in the representative pathway - it's the same message he still has today.
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Last week Hancock was revealed as the coach of the NSW Country under 18s side for 2022. It will be the highest level representative side he has been in charge of since transitioning from talented player to skilled mentor.
It comes off the back of coaching this year's Western under 18 in the Laurie Daley Cup, while Hancock was previously the man in charge of the Rams 16s who were inaugural winners of the Andrew Johns Cup in 2018.
Hancock said the current format of those cups and Rams program have been "a shot in the arm for the country players that are looking for a pathway" given the exposure they offer.
"It's a really tight knit sort of community, all the coaches talk to each other and get along, I've thoroughly enjoyed it and at the end of the day, it helps the young blokes and that's why we're here," he said.
"I think we had 16 out of our 21 squad last year go down and do a training trial or end up getting a contract down in the NRL system.
"You can see the pathway that [Penrith] Panthers have created for the Western Rams boys now too, you see the likes of Charlie Staines, Matt Burton, Brent Naden and more recent ones like Brad Fearnley and Liam Henry get a chance - the list is pretty long now."
"The Laurie Daley Cup, the Andrew Johns Cup, the way Matt Parish got it up and going and way everyone accepted how the competition goes has been a real shot in the arm ... it gives them that opportunity to get exposure then got down to Sydney that little bit later."
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