FIVE of the region’s best young indigenous players will have the chance to show their rugby talents on the national stage in Sydney this week.
Walcha’s Callum Morris, Armidale’s James Widders-Leece, Tamworth’s Dylan Batman and Braden Grehan and Inverell’s Bevan French have been selected to represent the National Indigenous side in the National Under 16 Rugby Championships at St Ignatius College, Riverview.
They will play in Division 2 of the championships and tackle Northern Territory today to open their campaign.
Under the auspices of the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team, the National Indigenous side will do battle with South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania for the spoils.
They will be out to defend their title after last year claiming the honours for the eighth time since 2001.
Narrabri’s Dylan Gale is also in the NSW Country 16s team playing in Division 1.
The four-day annual tournament is now in its 11th year and will feature 12 teams from across Australia, and has been an important step for a number of Wallabies including Michael Hooper, Dom Shipperley, Pat McCabe, David Pocock, Berrick Barnes, James Horwill, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Kurtley Beale.
Morris will pack down at hooker for the Indigenous side.
“The last week of school I found out I’d made the side,” The Armidale School student said.
He said it was a goal after last year making the Northern NSW side, and he was looking forward to the week.
“It should be good,” he said.
The cream of U16 talent will be on show, making for some pretty tough football.
Morris only took up rugby when he started at TAS.
“I played rugby league,” he said.
“Since I went to TAS in Year 7 I’ve played rugby.”
The Year 10 student can also play prop, and plays there for the TAS 16As.
He said it has taken a bit to learn the finer points of hooking, such as throwing into the lineout, but he’s got comfortable with the role.
The nationals will top off a busy year, and a pretty good one, for him.
There was TAS making its return to the GPS competition.
“It was good,” Morris said.
“It was a big step up on the other games we played.”
He was also part of the New England U16s side that won the Country Schools Championships in June and was from that named in the Country U16s team that played in the NSW Schools Championships, and the NSW Country Development side to tour the South Pacific Islands next year.
Cousin James Widders-Leece (O’Connor) was also part of that Lions side with him, and will also join him down in Sydney.
He’ll play at number eight.
French has also had a busy year.
He made the Combined High Schools 16s side and recently competed in the 2012 National Youth Championships for touch.