GREATER Northern Rugby League Under 16 and 18 sides are preparing for Country Championship weekends in Wollongong that could be the final time they are played in the one-weekend format.
This weekend’s junior championships will bring together talented Under 16 and 18 divisional sides from NSW Country.
However, Greater Northern Region chairman Barry Pratten said the format would change next year.
“The 16s and 18s will play a Harold Mathews-type competition over seven weeks,” he said.
“The competitions (Under 16 and 18) will feature 10 Country divisions cut into two groups of five.
“We (GN Under 16 and 18) will play the four other teams from the region.
“It gives all the boys a chance to impress and they will be able to select better Country sides.
“All the divisions will play in the pre-season competition during February and March and it will all be finished before we start our various Group competitions.”
He said the new junior divisional format would also be good for referees.
“It will also give more country referees the chance to referee at a higher level and to impress as well.
“At the moment, a lot of the refs aren’t getting that chance.”
It means this weekend’s Country Championships weekend in Wollongong would be the last time that format is run.
“I think it’s going to be better for everybody,” Pratten said.
He also believes the GN Tiger junior sides will compete strongly in Wollongong under their coaches, Matt Parsons (U18) and Garry Jones and Mark Wilton (U16).
“They are good young sides,” Pratten said.
He was also delighted with the performance of the senior GN Tigers and their 12-6 win over Western Rams in the opening Tier 2 Country Championship match at Singleton last Saturday.
“It was a very tough game, dominated by defence,” Pratten said.
The Darryl Rando-coached side, spearheaded by a storming display from Aberdeen backrower Ben Hagan, earned the Tigers a semi-final berth against North Coast at Morrie Breen Oval, Wyong on Saturday, June 14.
Pratten is also the Group 4 president and thought the double-header at Scully Park went off well on Sunday despite the rain.
Group 4 has also programmed another double- header for Scully on June 15 when West Lions play Gunnedah and Oxley Diggers tackle North Tamworth.
“There could be eight games that day,” Pratten said after Sunday’s six-game double header.
“The games will probably go into the night under lights and will probably have to be played on the Sunday.”