Raiders and Knights get started while academy squads finish up

IT WAS the start of the season for the Knights and Raiders but the end of the season for the Greater Northern Academy (GNA) Cubs and Tigers and probably the last time an NRL game is played on Scully Park.

When the Newcastle Knights beat the Canberra Raiders 34-14, it capped a bad night for football teams from the nation’s capital, with the ACT Brumbies losing their opening Super Rugby game to the Queensland Reds 27-17 in Canberra on Saturday as well.

In Tamworth, Scully Park – which is to be bulldozed to make way for a $12million motel-function centre – hosted not only the NRL sides but also the GNA Cubs and Tigers.

They tackled the Northern Rivers in an inter-academy weekend also including the North Coast academy.

The GNA Cubs and Tigers had beaten North Coast earlier in the day at Jack Woolaston Oval 28-4 in the younger game (Cubs) and then 26-nil in the older (Tigers) trial. Later in the afternoon they crossed the Peel River to tackle Northern Rivers in curtain- raisers to the NRL trial.

A 32-8 win by the Cubs was followed by a 28-8 success for the Tigers.

“It was a good weekend for the boys,”  GNA operations manager Scott Bone. “It was a good way to finish.”

He said the way the two teams played, the “shape” they showcased, was exactly what the Greater Northern Academy is all about.

“We’re pretty happy with how it all finished up,” he said. “They can go back to their clubs and schools now. 

“Their next step is to make Group and school sides and then come back here (Tamworth) for the Greater Northern trials on May 17.

“We’ll be picking Under 16, 18 and senior Greater Northern sides from those trials.

Garry Jones and Mark Wilton will be coaching the GN 16s, Matt Parsons the 18s and Darryl Rando the seniors.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle will consider playing Darius Boyd at five-eighth in a revamped backline after losing star playmaker Jarrod Mullen during the week to a serious hamstring injury.

Knights coach Wayne Bennett pulled a selection shock by switching Dane Gagai to fullback and trying Queensland State of Origin regular Boyd at five-eighth.

Bennett famously turned Darren Lockyer from a No.1 into a No.6 and Boyd could be his latest experiment.

However, captain Kurt Gidley came on in the final 20 minutes and played exclusively at five-eighth to suggest he’s the frontrunner to replace Mullen in the halves, who will miss up to four months.

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