GREATER Northern Under 16 and 18 teams had a marathon bus tour to prepare for their first-round NSW Country Championship matches in Wollongong today.
The Matt Parsons-coached Tiger Under 18s play Southern Stingrays in their opening game at Unanderra at 11.50am today while the Gary Jones-coached Under 16s tackle the Southern Stingrays on the Collegians Sporting Complex, Figtree at 1.15pm.
Yesterday the Tigers gathered in Wollongong after a day that had started for some at 5.30am by hopping on the team coach at Inverell.
They were then stopping at Tamworth at around 9am to pick up more players and head to Singleton where they were scheduled for a lunchtime training session.
Then it was back on the bus and a final leg to Wollongong .
“It’s a long day,” Under 16 assistant coach Mark Wilton said.
“It’s good that we can have a training run at Singleton though and break it up a bit.”
He is assisting Gary Jones with the GN Tiger Under 16s again.
Last year they lost the final in Dubbo and have another good side.
“It’s not the biggest pack but it’s a good working pack.
“And they are mobile.”
Armidale’s Phillip Quinlan, normally a lock or backrower, has been pushed up to prop, where Wilton believes he might be a game breaker with his swift feet.
“He’s got quick feet and is a good ball runner,” Wilton said.
“He can cause them a lot of problems with his stepping ability. He’s also got a good engine.”
Warren’s Josh Bermingham, a student at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High, is the halfback and captain.
“He’s a good talker and good organiser,” Wilton added.
“They are a good side and have trained well in the two sessions we’ve had.
“From what we saw in Tamworth, I’m hopeful we have a side that will go well.”
Werris Creek’s Parsons, a former NRL prop with Newcastle, is confident his side can also shape up when it tackles the Stingrays this morning.
He has a relatively young side and is looking towards the older heads in the side, the likes of Callum Hayne, Mitch Doring, Zac Faulkner and Jordan Press to lead the way.
The loss of Moree’s Lyall Munro last week (burst appendix) was a blow.
“The Stingrays will be a good side,” Parsons said.
“This will be a good tough game.”
The fact Hayne, Press and Doring have been playing first grade for their respective clubs in Group 4 and 19 is a help but no magic potion.
“These Country Championship are another step up in standard,” the big former Knights enforcer said.