City slickers a test for underdone bush boys

THE boys from the bush may have to face their biggest test of all against the slippery city slickers from Parramatta today.

The Wests Greater Northern Academy squads will face no bigger challenge in 2013 than the Parramatta Eels Under 16s and 18s, yet for the country kids it will be their first hit-out of the summer.

Beating the Eels at Armidale’s Bellevue Oval would be a massive upset but the GNA boys will do their best.

“We’ll be competitive,” GNA head coach Peter Stevens said.

“But the back ends of each half is where they might get away from us.

“They’ve played two games already and we’ve only had one training session since Christmas.

“They’re about to start a competition so they’ll be wound up.”

The GNA juniors face the Parra U16s from 1.30pm while the GNA seniors tackle the Eels U18s at 3pm.

Both games are curtainraisers to the Parramatta-Newcastle trial game, which kicks off at 5pm.

The GNA has booked a series of matches over the next few weeks, with the Hunter Academy the next opponent.

Those games are at Kurri Kurri next weekend.

“We’re not thinking about Hunter,” Stevens said.

“We’ve got Parra this week and all our attention is going into that.

“We’ve known for a while now that this game was in the air.

“They’ll be wound up and we’re just starting but we’ve got three trials in February.”

The last series of trials see the GNA host academies from the Western, North Coast and Northern Rivers at Farrer High School on February 23.

But today’s games are possibly the biggest for the youngsters, especially those trying to impress NRL scouts.

The Eels will certainly take note.

In fact the Parramatta staff will be on hand to help the local kids as well as its own.

“Because Parra staff are there we’ll have them talk to the kids before the game,” Stevens said.

“Then we’ll do a recovery session with them on Sunday morning and we’ll be able to watch a video from the game.

“It’s a lot more than just the game.”

With the University of New England playing host, the GNA is also keen to foster a relationship with the local institution.

The academy is about building pathways for local players, and not just pathways to the NRL.

“We’re speaking to the uni about more of a partnership,” Stevens said.

“The kids are not far off looking at those opportunities. So it’s a big 24 hours for our kids.

“Hopefully we can step up and show what we can do so that this can be an ongoing thing.”

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