THE hard work now begins for the Northern Inland squads.
After a tough process, selectors have named the U15s and U17s squads for Northern Inland’s Junior Gold Cup campaign.
It follows last Sunday’s trials at The Armidale School.
The JGC will be played in February and involves teams from around NSW and Queensland, Victoria, ACT, South Australia and Western Australia.
Northern Inland is one of 10 NSW-based sides and will be made up of players from Central North and New England.
The 15s will be coached by Bernie Williams and Gus Comi, while Andrew Verrell and Conrad Starr will be looking after the 17s.
Verrell said the concept was fantastic.
“Putting this national competition in place puts a bit of meat on the bones,” he said.
“It gives kids something to aim at.”
Up until now the Junior Gold Program has been more about training.
There’s been no competition as such. Now they’ll have the opportunity to play against the best players in the country in their age and be seen on a national stage.
It has certainly generated a fair bit of interest.
That was evident on Sunday, with more than 90 kids turning up to trial for the two squads.
The 17s accounted for 42 of those, from which a squad of 23 was selected.
It is essentially the top 23 from the players that trialed, but there is scope to add to it.
“The door is wide open – we can carry a squad of 30,” Verrell said.
The attrition of such a campaign is that they will pick up injuries and have unavailabilities from time to time, and Verrell said they are encouraging the kids that missed out on the 23 to be involved with the satellite sessions.
“We’ll bring the main squad in every third week for a full day session,” Verrell said.
Inbetween that, they’ll have weekly satellite sessions.
It was tough to whittle it down.
“It was really difficult. There’s some quality kids,” Verrell said.
He’s happy with what they’ve got and has gone for a bit of unknown talent.
“We’ve picked some rawbone talent in there.
“Kids that have had minimal exposure to rugby,” he said.
There’s a good spread, with players from Tamworth, Inverell, Walcha, Gunnedah, Narrabri, Scone and TAS.
Northern Inland has been drawn in Pool B of the Southern conference alongside Hunter, Western NSW, ACT, Victoria and South Australia.
The squads will be inducted at TAS on November 10. Then they’ll be knuckling down in training.
Verrell and Starr won’t just be teaming up for the U17s.
They’ve also been appointed to coach Pirates next season with Andrew Moodie.
Verrell will be the head coach, with Starr looking after the forwards and Moodie the backs.