Times are a changin'
YOUNG rugby league players on tour in modern times prefer reading to watching television and would rather listen to an iPod, than play card games.
Oxley Pioneers' coach Peter Barrett reveals there have been many changes since he was a junior representative player.
“The kids will read anything they can lay their hands on and the only ones playing euchre are me and the managers,” he laughed.
“And these young blokes know how to look after themselves, they eat the right foods and avoid the drink. Everything is about a healthy lifestyle and being focused on future careers.”
Nutritionists and education authorities will love Barrett's findings but the coach himself believes it's a major reason why the Pioneers have emerged to defend their Country Rugby League championship title in Orange tomorrow.
The team will play Central Hunter Power as a curtain-raiser to City versus Country Origin, the launching pad to NRL success.
Barrett is also aiming for a unique achievement.
After winning the last two crowns with North Coast and the newly minted Oxley Region, he's out to emulate Western Division which in 1982-84, was the only outfit to win three straight championships.
“We feel we can win, the boys have done all the hard work but even if we go down almost every one of them will have an NRL career path to follow if that's what they want,” Barrett said.
“If we win, as many as eight will gain Country selection - if we don't it's back to about four - and while I know who's been earmarked I'd better not say, so there's no extra pressure.”
Keeping pressure off his players has been one of the secrets of Barrett's success.
Word has emerged from camp that a few of the 'wilder' players have willingly knuckled down to the discipline structure and while he treats each player as an individual and as an adult, there's no room for nonsense.
“There's a time to do the work and a time to relax,” the coach said.
“We've planned this carefully with a stop-over at Coonabarabran (today) for a light run and pool session, with another session tomorrow morning on the ground where we play.
“Then, we'll have a visit to the ten pin bowling centre with a final couple of hours resting up, with the boys' families and supporters all joining them so they stay relaxed and focussed.”
Country legend Laurie Daley will make the final address prior to the match starting at 5.30pm.
“Then, my work is done and it'll be in their hands,” Barrett added.
Being assistant Country coach and tipped to handle the main job from 2010 hasn't dimmed Barrett's desire to remain in charge with both Group 2 and Oxley Region.
While it stung at the time, he's over criticism of early selection trials and chuckles when reminded none of those same critics are as vocal now.
“If they want me, I'm ready to go again,” he added.
“It helps to have continuity and we've set up a team to spot kids with potential and have a way to give them opportunities to be noticed.
“Some officials don't like rep football but it's a major part of keeping rugby league on top and when everybody pulls together, so much can be achieved.”
If we win, as many as eight will gain Country selection - if we don't it's back to about four