Local under-18s impress
GROUP 2 under-18 rugby league players have earned two berths in the Oxley Pioneers squad despite losing both pre-selection trials held at Wingham.
Coffs Harbour lock Aaron Jeffries turned in one of the finest efforts by any player at the trials and Port Macquarie’s grand final centre Tom Sheaves looked impressive scoring a try in each match.
“I was also thrilled by Macksville prop Luke Shields and Sawtell second-rower Chris Cook who would have earned jumpers in any other year, but with so many quality forwards on display, players from winning sides had an edge,” representative co-ordinator Greg White said.
“Our best effort was in the 26-20 opening round loss to Group 4 when a couple of concentration lapses cost us dearly.
"All their boys are in the North-West Academy program and more advanced than we are.
“In game two we were no match for the bigger, stronger Group 3 side and the 38-6 (scoreline) would have been far heavier if they hadn’t have called it off with six minutes left.
“By then our bench resembled a war zone and the trainer wasn’t ready to let any return despite (those players) busting to get into the action.
“Considering there were four late changes made the night before we played and 13 in the final few days leading up to competition, I believe coaches Paul Chambers and Danny Doolan and those 17 gutsy young blokes did a fantastic job.”
However, White was scathing of the attitude among some clubs and reveals that six days out from travelling, consideration was given to withdrawing from the tournament.
“Selector Maurie Lonergan pulled out all stops and the coaches and ARL Development officer Mike Castle dedicated so much effort to stop us being severely embarrassed in front of our peers,” he said.
“All we asked of the clubs was the contact details of the coaches and we’d take care of the rest.
“Woolgoolga and Bellingen replied within hours and while another five clubs were tardy with their responses for various reasons, I’m still to hear back from Sawtell and Nambucca Heads.
“In the case of the Panthers, this is very alarming as the system was created in response to elements within their club who two years back complained Sawtell players were unfairly treated and missed selection.
“Some loudly claimed (former) coach Peter Barrett and the selectors got their players mixed up and had no idea what they were doing.
“Unless all officials realise their responsibility to the game is bigger and more important than to any one club – particularly in juniors – the AFL may as well move in and take over right now.”