GUNNEDAH has been one of the best breeding grounds for junior talent in the Group 4 area for a number of years and it is still producing the goods.
The town boasts two members of this year’s Wests Greater Northern Academy squad, with Tyler Fleming and Callum Hayne both in their first year in the academy.
The Farrer First XIII teammates had a good 2012 and hope a stint in the GNA will prepare them well for 2013.
Fleming is 17 and is part of the GNA under 18s squad.
The hooker, who supports the Roosters in the NRL, played understudy to Farrer skipper Logan Harris at the Uni Shield final in Sydney but will step up in 2013.
The summer academy program complements what he boys learn at Farrer during the school year.
“It’s pretty hard,” Fleming said.
“We’ve learned things like ball skills.
“It’s completely different to Farrer.
“There’s more drills.”
Hayne is only 16 and was one of the younger members of the Farrer First XIII squad.
He played on the wing in the final and was also captain of the Farrer U16s side that won the Group 4 competition.
The fullback also represented the Country U16s this year.
“That was a good experience,” he said.
“It’s a shame we didn’t win but it was still good.”
He will aim to make the Group 4 U18s next year.
“I’ll have a crack at it,” he said.
Hayne is also probably the only player in the squad whose favourite NRL side is the Warriors.
He follows the Kiwi side because “no one else does”.
Another one of the Gunnedah boys’ teammates at Farrer this year was Lyall Houghton.
He’s not a Gunnedah lad.
He’s from further west.
The Pilliga local was also a member of the successful Farrer side and is also in his first year in the GNA system.
The 17-year-old centre follows South Sydney and is looking forward to having a crack at Parramatta’s juniors when the GNA squads face the Eels in Armidale on February 2.
“That will be a good one,” he said. “It will be a step up.
“I don’t know how we’ll go.”
The GNA has one more training run in January before those games at Armidale.
The Farrer and GNA teammates found themselves on opposite sides in Saturday’s final training run for 2012 when the under 18s squad took on Hayne’s under 17s in an opposed session.
Academy coaching staff were happy with the effort but the big test will come after the holiday break to see who has been keeping fit.