Festival puts on a SPARC-ling day of rugby

Newcastle Thunder’s innovative SPARC festival returned for a second edition at Kingston Park Stadium last weekend, as over 160 young players from grassroots clubs braved the elements to take part.

A groundbreaking new idea pioneered by the club, SPARC sees teams play in a series of modified games in which players will be able to earn points for their teams by showcasing their abilities and characteristics.

The second of three festivals to be held in 2019, the day was designed to offer players with an environment to challenge themselves, try new skills and enjoy the game of rugby league.

With a further festival to take place in July, that is open to all junior rugby league players, clubs and schools as well as junior teams from other sports, check out the video above to see why you should get involved.


The SPARC elements are; S – Skills P – Physical A – Awareness R – Resilience C – Character, with each of these attached to the games for the SPARC Game Coach awarding points throughout based on what they see on the field.

The scoring system will work as follows:-

S – Skills – 1 point for any examples of players demonstrating good core skills (catch, pass, kick, tackle, play the ball, grip) as well as double points for any try scored from inside a team’s own 40m area.

P – Physical – 1pt awarded for any examples of players demonstrating good physical attributes (speed, strength, power, agility, stamina)

A – Awareness – 1pt awarded for any examples of players demonstrating good awareness (identifying space, numbers/overlaps, mismatches) and attempting to exploit this.

R – Resilience – 3pts awarded to a team who is able to make their opponent kick from their own half in the set immediately after conceding a try.

C – Character – 1pt awarded for any examples of players demonstrating good character (leadership, honesty, respect, support, feedback).

Alongside the SPARC elements, each team has three SPARC powers which can be used throughout their games, with the players responsible for when these are implemented

The SPARC powers are:

1)  Rewind – go back one play for a second chance

2)  Double points – all points are worth double for one set of 6 tackles

3)  Overload – choose 2 players from the opposition to leave the field for one set of 6 tackles.

During SPARC games there are no scrums, with play restarting via a play the ball following an error or a tap restart should the ball leave the field of play.

Goal kicks and restarts have a time limit of 30 seconds in an attempt to maximise the ball in play time of games.

Speaking about the SPARC Festival, Academy Manager Michael Heap is excited to get this new format up and running.

“The aim of the SPARC Festival is to provide all junior players with additional playing opportunities whilst giving the players control of how they play, encouraging creativity and also rewarding the key components of performance which can sometimes go unnoticed in normal games.

“The format gives every child regardless of perceived ability, experience or development stage the chance to play more rugby league and enjoy themselves.

 “Through the SPARC Festival, we are aiming to build on the positive feedback we receive about NERL Junior Finals days and provide all players with a truly enjoyable and memorable experience in a fun and safe setting.”