Northern Pool are favourites
TEAM manager Mat Quirk doesn’t believe the giant Northern Pool forwards will be caught short on condition in this year’s intra-zone Mid North Coast Rugby representative match.
Northern collides with the Southern Pool XV at Crescent Head on May 15 and selectors have placed their faith in the majority of the Coffs Crushers pack to tame the highly-rated forwards from the lower reaches, despite Crushers being run ragged by the nippier Port Pirates in the weekend club game.
Quirk played wing in that encounter and copped a bird’s eye view of the 44-8 thrashing but while he admits at face value it should leave him worried, the final run-on side coach Bruce Frame has in mind will minimise the danger of being left flat-footed.
“Once the actual side is named the emphasis will be on mobility in the forwards and plenty of speed when we spin the ball wide,” he said.
“Everybody recognises that Southern have a lot of strength up front and will rely on that for momentum.
“As long as we don’t get enticed into playing their style, they’ll have no answer for the speed in our backline.”
When told the opponents had gone for inexperienced Gloucester halfback Andrew Paynter to fill the vital role of link man, Quirk admitted to feeling much better. Especially when reminded rival selectors decided to split the teenaged combination Paynter had forged at club level with outstanding fly half prospect Tom Middlebrook with the latter consigned to the under-19 line-up.
“Between Leith Vaughan and Tom Valentine, we’ve got the experience in that position as well a classy selection of blokes like Brendan Robbins or James Lancaster to choose from for the No. 10 role,” he said.
Selectors have called up Kempsey prop Brad Booth who made a big impression in the Cannonball’s narrow loss to Crushers and he’s being freely-tipped to edge out more fancied rivals for a berth in the run-on side.
With just one custodian selected it was a laydown misere Jordan Macey would get the job and his wide experience making calls from the back will go a long way to ensuring the side’s success.
Quirk also expects his selectors will make a late offer of a backline position to Pirates’ English import Ray Thompson.
“He’d only just got off the plane from Pommyland when they sent him out to do a carve-up on us last weekend and if he’s interested, you couldn’t possibly leave him out,” he added.
Abigroup Cup winners Old Bar Clams will provide a record eight players in the Southern squad, headlined by the firepower provided up front by props Murray Polson and Teia Ambrosoli.
Club and personal commitments mean the Northern Pool will have only one training run at Kempsey on Wednesday, May 12, before heading into battle three days later.
The final team will be named at the end of the session with Coffs Breakers centre Dylan Hurley the only player under an injury cloud at this early stage.