Country honours

ORARA Valley halfback Jason McGrady has had a big week and the reality of being part of football history is still sinking in.

Before a huge crowd attending the City versus Country Origin match at Wollongong's WIN Stadium, McGrady was a key ingredient in the Oxley Under-18s side, winners of the first Country Rugby League Championships played under the Regional system.

His success at five-eighth earned him selection as one of seven Pioneers in the Country representative team, the highest honour so far in a blossoming career.

"That win on Friday night was the best in the series because of the way we had to do it," he said.

"We were behind at half time but coach Peter Barrett wasn't panicking, he didn't rant and rave.

"He just told us to clean up our mistake rate when we went back out and that's what happened, it helped us to the win."

He's just as surprised as everyone that centre team mate Ray Marshall of Dunghutti didn't make the Country side as well.

"We all thought Ray would be in for certain," McGrady said.

"I'm looking forward to playing against him when we come up against the Broncos at the end of the round."

While the full tour program is still being finalised, McGrady knows there's at least one match against the old foes from across the border.

"We play an Origin match against Queensland," he grinned, "and as that takes place on the Sunshine Coast, in their territory, it should be interesting."

Those commitments will start from July but in the interim, McGrady will continue to build his reputation with new club Orara Valley, the place where his father (Jason Sr) won a first grade premiership in 1997.

Ironically, he's eligible to play alongside dad's centre partner Matt Donovan who took that team to the title, whenever present-day coach Darryl Fisher selects him in the top grade.

Fisher has patiently allowed the young player to find his feet and rested him when the rep program looks like getting too big to handle.

"Since coming over from Sawtell I've played one first grade game at halfback," he said.

"I don't know what Darryl has planned for the game against Woolgoolga on the weekend, I'll be happy to fit in wherever he needs me."

Many keen judges believe McGrady will cause enormous havoc when he plays wider in the backline but the youngster doesn't agree.

"I prefer the halves, that's where I want to play my footy," he added.

McGrady is under contract with the Newcastle Knights until the end of 2008 and will let the future take care of itself.

"Right now, I'm really happy at Orara and will take things as they come," he smiled.

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