IN FORM: This weekend’s opening matches of the Group 2 season is the last opportunity players like Sawtell’s Luke Hemsworth (above) have of impressing representative selectors.
IN FORM: This weekend’s opening matches of the Group 2 season is the last opportunity players like Sawtell’s Luke Hemsworth (above) have of impressing representative selectors.

Last chance for squad selection

PLAYERS keen to tour with the VB Gold Group 2 senior representative squad have just this weekend’s opening competition round remaining to press for selection.

With few of the leading contenders appearing at the official trials, the selectors’ task of coming up with the overall best side has been made more difficult.

Already there are fears many players who would normally be front-running candidates are going to miss the cut and lose their chance of earning a Country jumper after being kept in cotton wool during the last few weeks.

It’s an open secret head coach Peter Denham is less than impressed with the standard and commitment shown during the practise matches but has hinted this state can be quickly reversed.

“We get to have a look at one more round when teams are settled and playing for keeps,” he said in a communication to selectors. “By announcing them and publicising the squad and training venues and dates, I think it will give us eight days until the first training night to sort out issues with players.”

Denham and assistant coach Darren Leaney are preparing to tear up the training rule book and have promised a ‘once in a lifetime experience’ for the players chosen to contest the first round of Country Rugby League championships in Inverell on May 22-23.

And he’s moved quickly to allay fears the workload of Tuesday and Thursday club training with a session of representative training sandwiched between, is too big an assignment for many candidates.

“If we allow the mentality of ‘damn, boring training in Macksville tonight ... who gives a stuff’ then we will suffer badly at Inverell,” he predicted.

“The endeavour facing Daz (Leaney) and myself is to make each of the training sessions as professional and as fun as possible so they feel okay about going there.

“Instead of training, we might have a night out for dinner or skip a night if it’s too onerous.

“Our belief is talent is not as important in rep league as blokes keen to play together – although it helps – and we want to make them feel proud, happy and keen to get to Inverell.”

As was the case with the under-18 campaign, the suggestion is a traffic jam of outstanding talent is lining up for the forwards but there’s much less choice available for the backline.

A broken leg suffered by Bellingen’s attacking strike weapon Matt Bush couldn’t have come at a worse time with it being no secret the specialist winger had a walk-up start for the squad.

The pack selected is likely to contain three specialist front-rowers and five back row forwards, with at least two players adept at switching between halfback and hooker.

Assistant coach Leaney, a member of the ultra-successful North Coast team of 1997, believes finding the right backline is crucial.

“Spots are open for outside backs, for sure, with a need for at least one winger with genuine pace,” he offered.

“The type of player to excel at this level is not necessarily the fastest or most skilful.

“Desire to be there and mental toughness is critical if we are going to go very well.”

With Group 2 playing in a second tier competition this winter all players will be eligible for selection in the re-introduced Country Seconds side.



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