The Jetstar Gold Coast Titans have launched their Junior Pathways Program, which they say aims to provide a clear and structured pathway for junior rugby league players from under 13s right through to NRL level.

The Titans say the program will have an impact on more than 10,000 junior rugby league players on the Gold Coast and surrounding regions of Ipswich and the Northern Rivers.

Complementing the club’s National Youth Competition (under 20s) and SG Ball sides (under 18s) will be the introduction of an elite under 16s squad and a Titans Football Summer School for under 13s and under 14s.

On hand to help announce the launch was former Kyogle junior Shannon Walker, who recently made his NRL debut for the Titans.

Jetstar Titans managing director Michael Searle said the launch of the Junior Pathways Program was the ‘final piece of the puzzle’ in the rebirth of rugby league on the Gold Coast.

“Nine years ago, Jetstar Titans chairman Paul Broughton and I commenced the fight to bring top-flight rugby league back to the Gold Coast,’’ said Searle

“The driving force behind that dream was to establish a team which fans could become passionate about and that youngsters of generations to come could aspire to playing for.

“The final piece of that puzzle has now been achieved through the launch of our Junior Pathways Program.’’

Jetstar Titans head coach John Cartwright said the program would provide a genuine opportunity for aspiring young rugby league players to realise their dream.

He added it was his long-term plan to have players from the Gold Coast region making up 50 per cent of the NRL squad within the next five years and 75 per cent within the next 10 years.

“As head coach of the Jetstar Gold Coast Titans, a large portion of my role is dedicated towards identifying, working with and developing the best junior players from within our catchment area,’’ he said.

“The introduction of the National Youth Competition this year along with a 12-week SG Ball Premiership will be complemented in 2009 with an elite under 16 competition.

“This ensures that every Gold Cost junior rugby league player who dreams of one day pulling on a Titans jumper in the NRL now has a realistic chance and more importantly a genuine opportunity to do so.’’

Jetstar Titans co-captain Scott Prince congratulated the club on the launch of the program and said it was exiting for youngsters in the area to have the opportunity to play for an NRL club without having to move far away from home.

“Growing up in Mount Isa, the closest NRL club was hundreds of kilometres away, so I think it’s exiting for aspiring young rugby league players on the Gold Coast and surrounding regions to have a chance to become a Titan through the Junior Pathways Program,’’ said Prince.

PICTURED (from left to right):  Caleb Ziebell (Cudgen Hornets), Sam Harrold (Tweed-Tugun), Matthew Beddow (Southport Tigers), Reece Worboys (Currumbin Tugun), Guy Borgas (Titans SG Ball), Kurt Foggo (Titans SG Ball) and Shannon Walker (Titans NYC and NRL).