MUCH POTENTIAL: Top club hope to develop under-19 squad in nine-month programme
AFTER managing the national under-19 squad for the first time this year, Cobra, with financial backing from the CIMB Foundation, are keen to continue handling the team next year in an effort to provide a comprehensive development programme for the junior side.
Cobra vice-president Tan Thiam Jin said the club took the squad in for centralised training over a two-month period at their Petaling Jaya headquarters for the just-concluded Asian Under-19 15s Division Two tournament in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
He said Cobra have been seriously considering plans for a nine-month development programme in the lead-up to the competition next year.
The team, coached by Mohd Romli Saad and assisted by Mohd Faiz Md Ali, Mark Finlason and Kini Rasolosolo, finished third in the division after losing to Taiwan 1-0 on penalties in the semi-final and beating Singapore 18-13 in the playoffs.
"Although we did not earn promotion this year, I feel the boys showed tremendous potential at the tournament which we sincerely believe can be greatly improved with a more detailed programme," said Thiam Jin, who was also the head project manager for the team competing in Colombo.
"As one of the more established clubs in the country with access to reasonable resources, we feel a responsibility towards grooming the talent we have at not only the grassroots level but also at the national junior (team) level.
"We have marked out a nine-month programme where we hope to assemble a pool of over 50 players to train together and compete in tournaments both locally and internationally in order to give them the necessary exposure to compete at the highest level.
"The boys will also have the support of the club in terms of using the facilities at Cobra and will also have their welfare taken care of including from a medical perspective.
"This is important as the players need to have peace of mind to be able to give their all in training and competition."
Thiam Jin added that the programme will include a nationwide scouting campaign in order to uncover talented and physically gifted players.
"Our first game next year will be against Sri Lanka, who are a very formidable team blessed with excellent physique. So we need to be able to field a very competitive side to stand a chance (of promotion).
"We believe that there is a wealth of undiscovered talent throughout the country especially from Sabah and Sarawak.
"Scouting will be a major component of our programme, as in addition to grooming the players we also want to make sure every young player in the country has a chance to represent Malaysia."
Thiam Jin, however, stressed that consent from the Malaysian Rugby Union and support from the National Sports Council and National Sports Institute is imperative if the programme is to be a success.
"Rugby is a non-core sport in Malaysia and needs as much help as it can to improve," he said.
"Although we are happy to do our part and lead this programme, we hope that all the relevant parties will work together and lend their support to make this a success for the country at the international level."