New South Wales’ top young footballers will have the chance to test themselves against their southern counterparts in this year’s TAC Cup competition.

For the first time since 2002, when a teenage Jarrad McVeigh lined up in the blue and gold, the NSW-ACT Rams will be regular participants in the Victorian-based under-18 competition, and will battle it out against some of the best young talent in the country.

The Rams team, which will be comprised of under-18 players from both the QBE Sydney Swans Academy and the GWS Academy, will play seven games in the TAC Cup as well as two pre-season games leading into the main competition.

The team, which will be coached by former Sydney Swans player Jason Saddington, will also participate in the annual National Under-18 Championships which take place in June and July.

Swans Academy head coach Michael O’Loughlin said the return of the Rams to the TAC Cup was a terrific initiative to give the state’s best talent a taste of life as professional footballers.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for our young guys to go down and play against their peers in the under-18 competition,” he said.

“The travelling factor is something that can really prepare them for AFL football.

“Travelling interstate, staying in hotels and eating with the team, it’s a unique experience that a lot of the guys haven’t experienced before.

“The majority of the games are going to be down in Victoria and it will be great for the kids and the staff to get into that football environment down south.

“These opportunities don’t take place every year, but hopefully the guys can have a strong showing and can really let them know what New South Wales footy is all about.”

With the TAC Cup competition adding extra commitments to the young players’ schedule this season, Swans Academy players will be rotated into the Rams side to assist them in balancing their football with school commitments.

O’Loughlin said creating a balance between football and education was something very important to the Swans Academy, particularly at an under-18 level.

“There will be a little bit of a rotation system,” he said.

“It’s a really important year for our guys and the number one priority is their school and education.

“We’ve managed it pretty well so far and will continue to do that over this year and certainly the following years.

“The players know that (school) is the most important thing, so we manage their football around that schedule.”

The Rams’ 2014 TAC Cup draw will see the team play in Melbourne, Albury, Mildura and Morwell as well as in a curtain-raiser ahead of the Swans’ round 13 clash against Port Adelaide at the SCG.

2014 NSW/ACT Rams TAC Cup Schedule

Round 6

NSW/ACT Rams vs Dandenong Stingrays
Saturday May 3, 12:00pm
Shepley Oval, Dandenong

Round 7
NSW/ACT Rams vs Murray Bushrangers
Saturday May 10, 12:30pm
Lavington Sports Ground, Albury

Round 8
NSW/ACT Rams vs Oakleigh Chargers
Saturday May 24, 11:00am
Warrawee Park, Oakleigh

Round 9
NSW/ACT Rams vs Bendigo Pioneers
Saturday May 31, 12:00pm

Round 10
NSW/ACT Rams vs Calder Cannons
Saturday June 14, 1:00pm

Round 15
NSW/ACT Rams vs Western Jets
Saturday July 26, 11:00am
Burbank Oval, Williamstown

Round 16
NSW/ACT Rams vs Gippsland Power
Sunday August 3
Morwell Football Ground

Pre-season matches TBC