AFTER months of training, the Northern Inland U15s and U17s will make their first tackles in the inaugural ARU Junior Gold Cup in Sydney on Sunday.
The competition officially kicks off tonight, with Brisbane Yellow taking on Gold Coast as a curtain raiser to the Reds’ trial game against the Rebels.
Northern Inland will face Sydney South West in its first game, with the 15s kicking off at 10.30am and the U17s following at noon.
The 17s had their final hit-out against the Tamworth Magpies 18s last Sunday.
“It was a good hit-out. We needed it desperately,” head coach Andrew Verrell said.
They’d really only had the training weekend at TAS the weekend before to work on their game structures.
The training sessions before that were focused on the curriculum the ARU had set out for the program.
“Every single provincial side that had been selected had a curriculum of core skills they ran through,” Verrell said.
While acknowledging that as a good thing, it hasn’t left a lot of time to “get them game- ready”, especially compared to some of the other sides.
The Sydney sides have been training twice a week.
Still, Verrell is confident the boys will give a good account of themselves against what is anticipated to be some strong opposition.
“The reality is we’ll be up against some pretty big and polished performers out of the Sydney area,” he said.
He and Pirates star Conrad Starr are coaching the squad, with Peter Flynn managing.
They had to drop seven off the squad for the trip to Sydney but they will get their chance.
Along with the ARU directive that every player starts in a game, Northern Inland has brought in a policy that every player in the squad has the opportunity to travel away.
“We want to try to give the kids as much exposure as feasible,” Verrell said.
“Our policy at the moment is they’re (kids) guaranteed two or three games.”
The competition is first and foremost about development.
There is some talent in the squad.
Nick McCrohan and Josh Strange both played for NSW Country last year, Micah Scarth was in the NSW CHS 16s while Jayden Harradine and Dylan Chown were part of the national indigenous schools program.
Several of the others played for Country schools.
“The biggest drawback is we’re not as big across the park,” Verrell said.
They do have a plan to counter that.
“We’ll play a different style,” he said.
“We’ll try to play an up- tempo game and move their big guys around.”
“We want to try to play wide if we can and when we can,” he said.
Whether or not they can do that will depend a lot on the breakdown.
“If we control the pace of the breakdown we might be able to get in behind them,” Verrell said.
Both sides will train in Scone tomorrow on their way down to Sydney.
NORTHERN INLAND UNDER 15s: Joshua Dowse, Sam Laurie (vc), Harri Jackson, Fergus Grady, Rohan Edwards, Jack Redfern, Darcie Alley, Fraser Evans, David Hines, William Morley, Brady Mather, Percy Duncan, Damon Steel, Tom Fuller, Bowen Abra (c), Josh Riley, Nick Sultana, Kyle Trindall, Harry Gall, Angus Lang, Jake Saunders, Tom Baker, Sebastian Carrall.
NORTHERN INLAND UNDER 17s: Will Bowcock, Tom Brazel, Ben Caskey, Dylan Chown, Edward Clements, Henry Coldham, Josh Devine, Nicholas Finney, Tom Gall, Sinclair George, Braden Graham, Hayden Griffiths, Jayden Harradine, Tom Hawthorne, Naden Kennedy-Maxwell, Joseph Kingham, Nick McCrohon, Casey McGregor, Greg Prowse, Micah Scarth, Joshua Strange, Harrison Tibbles, James Tisdell.