FARRER will be missing a few key forwards as it lines up against South Grafton High in the University Shield at McKittrick Oval, Grafton this morning.
Last week’s resounding 26-10 win over St Greg’s, Campbelltown in the GIO Cup came at a price, although coach Chris Oxford is looking at it as an opportunity to build depth in the side.
The First XIII has lost both Zac Faulkner and Ryan Horton to knee injuries, with both likely to have minor surgery in the next fortnight.
Pocket-sized back-row workhorse Angus McTavish also didn’t make the bus after failing a fitness test on Tuesday afternoon with an ankle injury.
Blake Withers and Charlie Altus will come off the bench into the front row, while U16s Marcus Hayne and Harrison Buhler will step up into the open grade.
“Blake (Withers) has been impressive and Charlie (Altus) brings some aggression to the pack,” Oxford said.
Buhler should have no trouble stepping up after recently returning from duties with NSW Country 16s.
Oxford will use the unlimited interchange to give all 20 players a good run and keep the forwards fresh.
“Brad Johnston (prop) might have to work overtime to shore up the ruck a bit,” Oxford said.
“The backline remains unchanged.”
Farrer has been gifted a pass into the final 16 with a bye, two forfeits from Glen Innes and Coonabarabran, and one win over Inverell High.
A golden-point 27-26 loss to Bathurst High in the final last year at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah, cost the school back to back titles.
In fact Farrer is due for a win after taking the Shield in 2008, 2010, and 2012.
A handful of the Farrer side playing today played in last year’s final and need no more motivation than the memory of that game.
There are also four Year 10 students playing today who may get three bites at the cherry, as the coach looks at building for the future.
Five-eighth Josh Bermingham and fullback Hayden Loughrey are stalwarts of this year’s side, and are joined by fellow 16-year-olds Buhler and Hayne for today’s game.
“It is good to be able to give opportunities to these players,” Oxford said.
“I like to keep an eye on next year.
“Otherwise you get left with nothing and have to start again.”