By Geoff Newling
BEN Price is just 14.
The smile on his face says it all as he stops for a media break during another Greater Northern Academy session.
He’s one of 40 or so teenagers selected in this new GNA season.
The GNA has opted to go for a younger intake this year as well, giving the likes of Price the chance to become a part of the GNA a year earlier than had been normal.
GNA coaches have split their squads into two groups.
The younger Cubs are made up of 14-15-year-old players while the Tigers are the older 16-17 players.
Matt Kenny is in charge of the Tigers and Peter Stevens is the head coach of the Cubs.
14-year-old Price is a five- eighth who will be in Year 10 at Manilla Central School next year.
This year he played for Kootingal in the Tamworth and District Minor League.
He has had three GNA sessions so far and, while he has found it hard, is enjoying it.
“It’s really good, I’m enjoying it,” Pricetold The Leader.
“I’m learning all the time.”
The “learning” is what he has enjoyed the most.
Looking and listening and soaking up every little piece of information which can improve his game.
Chris Dillon, 16, enters Year 12 at Manilla Central School next year.
He’s a nuggety backrower and is also in the GNA for the first time.
“It has been good,” he said.
“I’ve learned a lot so far and I’m trying to get used to it all.”
He played for the West Lions Under 16s this year.
“We finished third, got beaten in the preliminary final,” he said.
Corey Manicaros, 15, is also from Manilla but he attends Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School and will be a Year 11 student in 2014.
His older brother, Dylan Manicaros, was one of the Farrer stars in their run to a Uni Shield Final as well as playing lock in the North Tamworth first grade side’s grand final loss to West Lions.
“He’s down at Newcastle now trying to win a spot in the Knights Under 20 side,” he said.
“Jake (his half brother Jake Hawkins) is also down there trying to get into the Knights’ NSW Cup side with Lakes United.”
Their endeavours show Corey just what can be attained and how much hard work it does take just to be given a sniff of an NRL career.
“You’ve got to work hard,” he said.
“It all starts here.”
A gifted playmaker and five-eighth, Corey had a mixed season in 2013.
“I did have a good year but had a few injuries too.
“I did both knees.
“But we won the Group 4 Under 16s (with the North Tamworth Under 16s) and Farrer got to the Uni Shield final.
“We got beaten in golden point but I did get to play the second half.”
Corey was in the GNA last year and is looking forward to his second year of GNA .
“I can’t get enough of it,” he said.
“Being able to come back is the best.”
The GNA has one more session before Christmas, a Saturday December 14 session where the two sides may have a half-hour game against each other.
They return from a Christmas-New Year break with a January 19 session which will prepare the two squads for games against the Newcastle Knights junior squads at Cessnock on February 15.