THE PARRAMATTA Eels had a day off from training in Armidale yesterday but will enjoy an early start this morning on the eve of their NRL trial match with the Newcastle Knights.
The Eels have spent three days in Armidale as part of their training camp at the University of New England but three players also took a drive up the New England Highway on Wednesday evening to visit Guyra.
Caroona product Ben Smith, Matt Keating and Chris Sandow played a game of touch, answered questions and signed autographs with about 30 kids from the local junior club at its sign-on day at the Guyra Sports Complex.
“It puts a smile on their faces,” Keating said.
“They don’t get to see NRL players week in week out so it’s good to see the kids.
“It means a lot to the kids and to us.
“If there’s no junior league, there’s no future, so it’s important.”
Keating and his brother Kris, who was one of the stand-outs for the Bulldogs when they beat Canberra in a trial in Tamworth two years ago, both hail from the Cabramatta junior club in Sydney, but have a family connection locally.
Their dad is a Gunnedah lad and the pair have been regular visitors to the region over the years.
A few days in Armidale has been a nice change for the Eels hooker.
“It’s been good,” Keating said. “We’re obviously staying at UNE and they’re good
“We had a training session and then some weights (on Wednesday).
“We’ve been meeting a lot of the teachers as well and it’s good to do that sort of thing, meet some new people.”
This morning’s final training session at the uni will feature during the weather segments of the Sunrise television program and there should be plenty of local fans there to see the NRL stars in the flesh.
It is their last run before tomorrow’s game against the Knights. A number of Eels first graders will play tomorrow, including Reni Maitua, new recruit Daniel Harrison and Tanielo Lasalo.
PARRAMATTA: 1. Jerome McKenzie 2. Vai Toutai 3. Brayden Willieme 4. Dylon Gilbert 5. Semi Radradra 6. Luke Kelly 7. Api Pewhairangi 8. Taulima Toutai 9. Nathan Smith 10. Taniela Lasalo 11. Reni Maitua 12. Daniel Harrison 13. Ken Edwards, 14. Pat O'Hanlon 15. Kelepi Tanginoa 16. Pauli Pauli 17. Frazer Masinamua 18. Lorenzo Ma'afu 19. Dean Prata 20. Jason Seage 21. Jon Pepa 22. Jason Wehbe 23. Limoni Kamuta.