Country's kids flock to eighteenth edition of Armidale rugby camp 16/01/2018 By NSW Waratahs Media unit Over 300 kids from all across the country joined their mates at the University of New England (UNE), Armidale for the annual New England National Rugby Camp. Started by the Schmude brothers Dave, Paul and Marty, the camp is now in its 18th year. Heading up Camp Operations is Dave Schmude, who is delighted by the camp’s growth since its inception in 2001. “The camp has been running now for 18 years; my brothers and I took over back in 2001. Our first camp had 45 kids and for the last 15 years we’ve had in excess of 250 and 300 kids each year,” he said. Assisting in delivering the four-day programme alongside the Schmude brothers’ volunteer coaches were a number of NSW Rugby Development Officers (DOs), who Dave says are vital to the programme’s delivery. ”They (NSW Rugby DOs) play a really important role. They look after the on-field programme and we are lucky enough to have continued support from NSW Rugby Development Officers and administration,” he said. “Our community coaches contribute a huge amount to the camp as volunteers who come along and they learn a lot from the NSW Rugby Development Officers, who then can apply that to training our local kids. It’s a win-win for everyone and is something that we really value.” On-deck for the week’s activities was NSW Rugby Development Officer for the New England Region, Garry Walsh. “This is most probably our single largest rugby activity in the North West, but it’s not just for the boys and girls here even though we draw heavily from this area,” he said. Walsh talks through the curriculum that the boys and girls go through, day by day. “We give them the whole go right from the basic skills of catch-pass through to the tackle contest, “ he said. “The first day was non-contact, with more focus around ball movement, which is where we progress on day two with a focus on full-contact Sevens. “On the last day we play full pathway, meaning the bigger kids play 15-a-side while the younger ones will play 12-a-side. It all culminates in making sure we can package it together and they get a full experience of what the game is about. It is important because these guys are the building blocks of our game.” Joining Walsh was a multitude of NSW Rugby DOs from around the State, each offering their own point of difference to the kids who hail from all across Australia. “Not only do we offer the wealth of knowledge from the on-field experience, we’ve got guys like current NSW Country Cockatoo and Development Officer in the Newcastle/Hunter region, Michael Howell, teaching the girls, ” he said. “We also have Michael Burgess (Development Officer, Central Coast) who’s a former NSW Country Corellas coach and Junior Gold Cup coach. Then there’s George Gargoulakis (Development Officer, Western Sydney) who was coaching Norths Colts last year and is at Parramatta this year. “The important thing that we are really focused on developing is linking in these skills to the core values our game, which are pride, respect, inclusiveness and accountability. It’s really about making sure we feed those values to the kids and make them not only better footballers, but better human beings.” Schmude agrees. “A lot of the camp is ‘old school’ I suppose in that there are as many lessons on the field as well as off of it,” he said. “People come back here year after year. We have kids that have come back for the sixth or seventh camp and we take kids from the age of seven all the way up to 16.” For the Schmude brothers, it’s all about giving the camp-goers an experience that keeps them coming back year after year. “We really enjoy giving back to a game we love and it’s fantastic to get a great number of volunteer coaches, NSW Rugby Development Officers and campers from all over Australia. It’s wonderful to have such a great turn out,” he said. “There’s a pair of mates I know who come here to the camp – a kid from Tamworth who loves coming here to meet up with his friend from Sydney who are now both here for their fourth camp together. “There’s stories like that and I think that it’s great the game of rugby can promote that.” NSW Waratahs backrower Jack Dempsey will join the camp on Tuesday, 16 January. The NSW Waratahs will play interstate rivals, the Melbourne Rebels in our only home pre-season trial match on Thursday, 15 February at Brookvale Oval. To secure your seat, head to www.ticketmaster.com.au/waratahs - free for 2018 season members.