THE WESTS Greater Northern Academy’s younger squad thoroughly deserved a 10-4 win over the Parramatta Eels U16s in Armidale on Saturday as the country kids showed up the more fancied visitors.
While the GNA senior side struggled in the second half against the Eels U18s, the juniors were outstanding in the first match of the day at Bellevue Oval and could have beaten the NRL juniors by even more.
“I always knew we could match them,” GNA coach Peter Stevens said.
“I’m very happy.
“Our five front-rowers were really good.
“Josh Upward, one of our 15-year-olds was outstanding and Zander Smith was very, very good.
“But we didn’t have a bad player.”
Parramatta scholarship holders Corey Manicaros and Mitch Doring performed well for the GNA against some of their potential future teammates while Newcastle Knights signing Beau Parry was also a standout.
He showed why he made the NSW U16s side last season with some big hits and strong runs.
Manicaros is one of three under 15s players in the GNA squad, along with Upward and Brayden Gallagher, and all three were impressive.
“The three scholarship players, I was a bit worried how they would go, but they didn’t look out of place,” Stevens said.
“I think in our last session the penny dropped for these kids.
“I knew all along we could be competitive.
“It hasn’t surprised me that we got the points.
“But I’ve been involved for five years now and this is as good a younger squad as we’ve had.”
There are four Country U16s reps in the GNA side, including Doring, Parry and Callum Hayne.
The other is Zack Leonard and he opened the scoring on the left flank.
Parry also claimed a try from a kick that would have extended the lead but it was denied.
Parramatta hit back with its only try and even that was a lucky one from a kick.
GNA was the better side throughout and extended its lead when Jacob O’Hara finished a good try in the same corner as the first score.
The locals had to defend several Eels raids late in the game but hung on well despite only having trained once since Christmas.
“I think a lot of these kids must have done a lot of training at home,” Stevens said.
“It was my biggest concern, the fitness, but they were pretty good.
“There were a few kids who were leg-weary towards the back end, don’t worry.
“But it’s a good first hit-out.
“When it’s 10-4 you don’t get any breaks in play.
“If it had been 40-30 you get a lot of chances to stop and rest.”
The GNA seniors were in the hunt against the Eels’ U18s when trailing 10-6 at halftime but ran out of steam and ideas in the second half.
The final score was 46-10, with Tyler Fleming scoring both of GNA’s tries.