FARRER Memorial Agricultural High School will enter today’s University Shield semi-final against Belmore Boys High School without halfback and skipper Tom Say.
The Glen Innes pivot has been ruled out after suffering concussion playing for North Tamworth Under 18s in last Saturday’s 10-6 Group 4 final- round loss to Gunnedah Bulldogs at Kitchener Park, Gunnedah.
His place has gone to 16-year-old tyro Marcus Hayne, with vice captain Brad Johnston taking over as skipper.
It’s not the only change in the side, with coach Chris Oxford promoting Charlie Altus and James Fisk off the bench to pack into the second row and moving Matt Merrick out to the centres.
“That’s where he started the season,” Oxford said yesterday.
“It will make our edge a bit stronger defensively too.
“James (Fisk) and Charlie (Altus) put their hands up against Endeavour (last week’s 50-nil loss) and earned a start.
“Marcus (younger brother of North Tamworth first grade winger Callum Hayne) was called up into the squad two months ago and has been training well.”
Oxford was concerned about a loss in confidence for the side after its big defeat in Sydney and then a lacklustre performance at Gunnedah last Saturday (playing as the Bears’ Under 18s).
He’s hopeful the likes of Hayne, Josh Bermingham and Hayden Loughrey can inject some “enthusiasm and energy” into the Farrer side this morning against a side he knows nothing about.
In Johnston, he has a natural leader, who played strongly against Endeavour.
“He made three line breaks, 10 to 15m runs, carrying the ball back against them,” Oxford said.
“He’s been a leader in the side by the way he plays.”
The return of Zac Faulkner from injury against Endeavour was a bonus too for today’s Uni Shield semi.
“He was able to blow the cobwebs out,” Oxford said of Faulkner, who, like Johnston, represented Country Under 18s earlier this season.
Today’s semi-final kicks off at 10am.