NORTHERN Inland might not have tasted a lot of ARU Junior Gold Cup success, but the boys will be a lot richer for the experience.
The 17s and 15s’ participation in the inaugural competition ended in Canberra on the weekend, and while both sides only picked up the one win, the players involved took a lot away from it, that they will now bring back to their school and club sides.
The competition was introduced this year as an extension of the existing development program, and 17s’ coach Andrew Verrell believes it’s got a lot of merit.
“The bottom line is it’s a great concept,” Verrell said.
“17-year-old kids playing in a national championship. They get seen.”
“No-one slips through the cracks anymore.”
He said it also shows that you can still play out in the country and get seen.
15s co-coach Gus Comi shared similar sentiments.
“It’s a genuine pathway now,” he said.
“The boys played in front of the Brumbies and stuff.
“It gives them exposure on a national stage.”
The 17s final game was played as a curtain raiser to the Brumbies/Stormers Super 15 game, which was a great experience for them.
“The Brumbies were fantastic. They really looked after us,” Verrell said.
“They (also) got subjected to some of the protocols of Super 15 sides.”
They also got to meet some of the players after the game.
Quirindi’s Sam Carter came over to talk to them and called the Brumbies players over.
Verrell said hopefully the whole experience will help drum up a bit of interest in the program for next year.
They should be better next year, and especially the year after, with the 15s starting to filter through.
“The big drawback for us was we couldn’t get the frequency of training together,” Verrell said.
The sides they were coming up against were training two/three times a week, but geography and other constraints made it difficult for Northern Inland to do that.
Saturday was a long day for them.
The Tamworth contingent had to leave at 4am to get to Armidale in time to catch their 6.30am flight out of Armidale.
“They were a bit jaded in the second half,” Verrell said.
They had, he thought scrapped quite well in the first half to be down 26-5 after another disastrous start.
They failed to kick the ball 10m from the kick-off.
“There was a midfield scrum awarded to the opposition 10 seconds in,” Verrell said.
“They eventually scored after a long period of us defending.”
Then they kicked off and did the same thing again.
As he has been throughout the competition skipper Nick McCrohan was a standout.
“He’s like a dynamo,” Verrell said.
“His work rate is incredible.”
Nick Finney was also good again at fullback.
“He was under a lot of pressure,” he said.
“He was belted around a bit there.”
Hayden Shepherd and Nick Sorrenson also worked hard.