40 players trial for rep team
AN elite group of 40 players will trial by invitation at Macksville’s Allen Gillett Oval next Sunday for positions in the Group 2 under-18 representative team to be coached by Peter Barrett.
Players from Nambucca Heads, Macksville, Macleay Valley and Port Macquarie will form the Southern team to be supervised for the occasion by Maurie Lonergan.
Former top class prop forward Anthony Hill will be in charge of their Northern opponents, provided by Sawtell, Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo, Orara Valley and Woolgoolga clubs.
With the majority of their juniors coming from under-16s and entering grade ranks for the first time, Coffs Harbour is the only club without representation.
At the end of the trial, a provisional 17-man squad will be announced and after a further round of club trials the following weekend, the full Group 2 team will be ratified for the Oxley Pioneers selection matches in Tamworth on Saturday, March 27.
“This first trial is the most difficult to negotiate in the whole process,” Barrett said.
“We have to speak with the club coaches to find who the top prospects are and once the young blokes get to Macksville, they have to perform on the day to make it through to the Group team.
“There’s another bunch of players with cricket commitments who we haven’t forgotten and the selectors will watch their form at the club matches the following weekend, to make sure we’ve looked at the maximum number available.
“It takes a lot of extra work to do it this way but the results are worth it with double the number of kids given an opportunity than ever were before.”
The side will train at Macksville on March 17 and 24 at 6pm, to prepare for the Tamworth excursion.
From last year’s inaugural Northern versus Southern clash, Alex Hull, Danny Cooper, Kristian Kelly, Ben Groenwegen and Wil Ghilotti went on to the Oxley Pioneers team which progressed to the grand final of the Country Rugby League championships and every player fielded the attention of NRL clubs.
Kristian Kelly is the sole survivor from that team and he’ll trial again next Sunday.
Two of 2009’s younger brigade, Macksville halfback Tyler Doolan and Bellingen’s exciting young forward Vaughan Babbini, have added a year in maturity to their game and will be front-runners for Pioneers selection.
“They’re a younger lot this time around but getting them used to being a representative player right from the start will be a big factor in their education,” Barrett added.
GROUP 2 ‘Class of 2010’
Orara Valley Axemen
Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo Magpies
Nambucca Heads Roosters
Macksville Sea Eagles
Macleay Valley Mustangs
Port Macquarie Sharks