The South Sydney Rabbitohs are delighted to announce a two-year affiliation agreement with renowned Hostplus Cup club, the Townsville Blackhawks, which will see the further expansion of the Rabbitohs’ elite pathways into north Queensland.

This agreement comes off the back of last week’s announcement with Keebra Park State High School, one of the premier sporting schools in south-east Queensland, for the next three seasons.

The agreement with the Blackhawks will increase the number of high-quality players available to the Rabbitohs in the second tier competitions in Australia, a pathway for players from north Queensland into the Rabbitohs’ system, access to elite juniors from Townsville and the surrounding districts, pre-season training and playing opportunities for elite players from the Blackhawks, professional development opportunities for coaches and staff from both organisations to learn from their colleagues, as well as the establishment of a Rabbitohs and Blackhawks Elite Development Partnership Committee to oversee all activities between the clubs.

The partnership with the Blackhawks will work in unison with the Rabbitohs’ focus on its local pathways which has secured a NSW Cup Premiership and NRL State Championship this season, and a Jersey Flegg Cup under 21s Premiership in 2019.

Rabbitohs Chief Operating Officer, Brock Schaefer, says this affiliation agreement with the Townsville Blackhawks will help broaden the elite talent available to the Rabbitohs.

“We have great respect and admiration for the Townsville Blackhawks. Our clubs share many values and both place the community at the heart of our operations. We’re looking forward to kickstarting this partnership with the Blackhawks as we see this providing great opportunities to players, coaches and staff from both organisations,” Mr Schaefer said.

“Similar to our agreement with Keebra Park State High School, we have identified in our strategic plan and our football review that we need to continue to grow our footprint and increase our investment in our elite pathway programs. This has proven to be a marker of success at the NRL level of the game and this affiliation agreement will complement the local pathway we have set up in the NSWRL competitions.

“We understand that for many young players coming out of Townsville and the surrounding districts that the Cowboys may be the club with which they choose to pursue their career and we fully respect that, however we will be working with the Blackhawks to encourage players that wish to broaden their horizon and look elsewhere to make the Rabbitohs their choice of NRL club.

“We’re committing to working closely with the Blackhawks on opportunities for players such as pre-season training blocks and coaching within our system; opportunities for coaches such as professional development going both ways, training camps and facilities use; and opportunities for staff to increase their professional development and promotional opportunities for both clubs. We’ll also be working towards playing pre-season second-tier matches between the clubs and hopefully we can play against each other in the NRL State Championship as we aim to defend our title this season.

“Led from our end by Tyrone McCarthy, Brent Hill and myself, we’ll be providing a pathway for elite players from north Queensland who want to spread their wings and join us in the red and green.

“This is an exciting expansion of our pathways program and we look forward to working with (Blackhawks Football Manager) Adrian Thomson, (Head Coach) Terry Campese and the whole team at the Blackhawks to make this partnership successful for both clubs.”

The Townsville Blackhawks are also excited about this partnership with the Rabbitohs.

“The Mendi Blackhawks are very excited and honoured to be in an affiliation agreement which will commence from 1st November, 2023 with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, a club so steeped in the history of Rugby League,” Blackhawks Football Manager Adrian Thomson said.

“With this agreement, we are excited to be able to present the region’s players and potentially staff an extra direct pathway to the NRL.”

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