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The Perth Spirit has been announced as one of nine teams to contest the inaugural National Rugby Championship, which will kick off in August this year.
The Spirit represented Western Australia in the 2007 Australian Rugby Championship, qualifying for the semi-finals in the one-off tournament. The 2007 team helped provide a springboard for current Western Force players Pek Cowan, Nick Cummins and Kieran Longbottom to launch their Super Rugby careers.
The National Rugby Championship will feature four teams from New South Wales, two from Queensland, and one each from Western Australia, Australian Capital Territory and Victoria.
The Perth Spirit will be made up of representatives from the Western Force and the best talent from the local Pindan Premier Grade competition.
The Perth Spirit will play in black and gold jerseys, the traditional state colours of Western Australia.
RugbyWA CEO Mark Sinderberry says the Perth Spirit and the National Rugby Championship will provide additional rugby opportunities for players in Western Australia.
“Our local rugby community still has a great deal affection towards the Perth Spirit stemming from 2007, and we’re very pleased to be able to resurrect the Spirit for the National Rugby Championship,” he said.
“The NRC provides an extension to our state’s player pathway and provides a vital step between our club competition and Super Rugby for those aspiring players.
“It’s exciting to be able to offer a significant number of positions to our local players, and provide them with an opportunity to test themselves at a higher level. Through the access to professional coaching and training with the Spirit, this will be a valuable tool for further developing many of our club players.
“For our Western Force players, it will provide additional playing opportunities for those not selected in the Wallabies.”
Teams to compete in the 2014 season are:
• Perth Spirit (Rugby WA/Force)
• Brisbane City (QRU/Reds)
• Greater Sydney Rams (West Harbour, Penrith, Parramatta, Eastwood and Southern Districts)
• Melbourne Rising (VRU/Rebels)
• North Harbour Rays (Manly, Warringah, Gordon and Norths)
• NSW Country
• Queensland Country (QRU/Reds)
• Sydney Stars (Sydney University and Balmain)
• University of Canberra Vikings (ACT Rugby/Brumbies, University of Canberra and Tuggeranong Vikings)
The NRC will kick off in late August following the Pindan Premier Grade competition and will run until the beginning of November.
The competition will run for 11 weeks and include eight preliminary rounds, with each team playing four home and four away games, one bye week and finishing with semi-finals and finals.
All Super Rugby players will be required to play in the National Rugby Championship, with a quota system in place to ensure each of the nine teams have a mixture of Super Rugby players and the best up-and-coming players from their local club competitions.
Qantas Wallabies players will be allocated across the nine teams and will play should they become available during the international season.
Tenders for the National Rugby Championship were assessed on a range of factors including financial capacity; venue facilities and infrastructure; professional team staffing structure and environment; commitment to player development; links to Super Rugby clubs; and current or potential fan base.
The competition is supported by Foxtel and FOX SPORTS and at least one match per round will be broadcast live on FOX SPORTS.