CENTRAL North junior and senior talent will be chasing Country honours at Newcastle and Hurlstone this weekend.
Following last weekend’s 16s and 17s Country Championships, its the 14s and 15s’ turn this weekend.
Pirates Josh Stewart and Jake Douglas, and Scone’s Ryan Jackson are meanwhile headed to Hurlstone to attend the NSW Country Cockatoos training camp.
The squad for this weekend’s camp was named from the Country Championships where Stewart and Jackson were strong performers for Central North.
From this weekend, the squad will be cut to 25 for games against NSW Suburban, Australian U20s and Australian Services.
Stewart is hoping to make a return to the Cockatoos after missing last year through injury.
He’ll be contending for a breakaway spot, Douglas a centre jersey, and Jackson a front row role.
He can play either hooker or prop.
A couple of young Pirates team-mates have already earned Country jerseys, with Nick McCrohan and Micah Scarth being selected in the Country U17s side.
McCrohan was named as the reserve number eight and Scarth the reserve half-back.
The Kookaburras 14s are in a pool with Hunter, Central West and Central Coast and will tackle the coasties first-up this morning.
The 15s also start with a coastal side – Far North Coast.
They’ve also got Mid North Coast and Hunter in their pool.
“It’s not a bad draw,” co-coach Dominic Shortis said.
“It’ll be good to get the game against Far North Coast under our belts before we play Hunter.”
Hunter will be one of the title favourites.
The Kookaburras played Hunter in a trial in the lead-up, and Mid North Coast the week before that.
The side has retained a nucleus of the side that won the title as 12s but will be looking to improve on last year.
They struggled, Shortis said.
“A lot of the boys were tied up with the Junior Gold and have been at it for a while,” he said.
They also deliberately played more games rather than just training this year to get them match fit.
“We’re hoping this year they’re better prepared,” he said.
He said one thing they drew from the trials was that they needed to do some work on their defence.
New England also has two sides competing this weekend, with the Lions fielding sides in the junior Country Championships for the first time in a few years.