The Southern defence swarms around a Northern player during the representative trial at Macksville on Saturday.
The Southern defence swarms around a Northern player during the representative trial at Macksville on Saturday.

Pickvance sparks Southerners

OPENS

GROUP 2 SOUTH 22

GROUP 2 NORTH 12

By MITCHELL DALE

SOMETIMES you just get lucky.

When late withdrawals left the Group 2 South short on players for Saturday's representative rugby league trial against Group 2 North, they went sifting through the Macksville crowd to see who they could grab as a ring-in.

They stumbled across the Sea Eagles' attacking wizard David Pickvance, who, after a quick dash home to grab some boots, proved to be one of the deciding factors in South's 22-12 victory over North.

Pickvance would have been first picked in the South backline had he not missed both of Macksville's official Group 2 trials.

The gifted fullback/centre grabbed two tries and, although he only looked vaguely interested at times, was a threat nearly every time the ball went his way.

Along with Macksville teammate Nev Donovan and Port Macquarie centre Joel Asher, Pickvance was one of the Southerner's best.

For North, Tristan Hamilton-Giggins (Orara Valley), Bert Gray (Coffs Harbour) and Matt Plater (Sawtell) all played well enough to ensure they will get a Group 2 jersey this year.

Gray, in particular, put his hand up for higher honours, marshalling the forwards around the paddock and off-loading at will.

An 18-man Group 2 squad was chosen after the match, but coach Mark Morrison says there is still room for late inclusions before the side to play Group 3 at Macksville on April 23 is announced.

"It is a training squad, but we have left spots 19 and 20 open if a few players step up in the first weeks of the competition," Morrison says.

"There were a few blokes who, for a number of genuine reasons, were not here and we will keep our eye on them."

Among the unavailable players who are likely to come into calculations are Macksville's Reg Donovan, Sawtell fullback Damien Irvine, Orara utility Ben McCarthy and Henry Dunn, who is currently the subject of a tug-o-war between Macksville and Coffs Harbour.

The two most notable omissions from the training side are Port Macquarie fullback Josh Mann, who withdrew after playing the trial, and Woolgoolga half Arthur Murray.

While Murray showed glimpses of his dynamic best, his uncharacteristically quiet game cost him dearly.

"I think if you had to pick a halfback today, Arthur played well and is very talented, but Nev (Donovan) was great," Morrison says.

"Arthur was very unlucky because you don't pick two halfbacks in most rep sides."

In the end, Nambucca half Willie Baker squeezed Murray out of a spot in the training squad.

"On the bench, you usually have a lot of forwards and one back," Morrison says.

"We had to decide on whether we took Arthur who can play halfback and five-eighth, or Willie who is an option at fullback, centre, five-eighth and halfback.

"Willie's versatility got him over the line."

Morrison has made no secret he wants youth in this year's Group side.

Youth is what he got.

Orara young guns Ryan Walker and Tyler Corfe both earned their senior representative debuts, as did Hamilton-Giggins, while players like Asher, Chris Piper, Matt Shipway and Adam McMurray have plenty of football in front of them.

Corfe, who will be first-choice halfback for the Axemen this year, is likely to get his representative start at hooker following an impressive display in the number nine jersey after earning a late call-up for North.

"My goal was to have a young crew to work with," Morrison admitted.

"I want to give them their first opportunity at this level and count on their passion, motivation and interest."



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