They’re the baby Bears who have emerged this year as the future of North Tamworth, but it is their influence on the now that is of most interest.
Front-rowers Alec Cocking and Jack Cameron, hooker Ryan Ingram and back-rower Mitchell Sheridan were plucked from Norths’ under-18 side this season to make their first grade debuts.
Their elevations came when Norths faced what Bears coach Brad McManus described as the “first sort of test” of the club’s “strength” due to injuries to key players.
The fact that Norths play Gunnedah in Sunday’s major semi-final at Jack Woolaston Oval is largely due to the job the fabulous four have done.
They have also provided a side built on the toil and skills of battle-hardened veterans with a youth injection that has been rejuvenating, McManus said.
“They keep the old fellas on their toes,” he said.
“You even see it at training with the competitive side of them. The young blokes keep a bit of interest [going] among the old fella. It’s really good.”
“We threw them in the deep end and they took it with both hands,” he added.
Ingram replaced Brock Wadwell when he broke his leg against Wee Waa in round nine. Bulldogs captain and fellow hooker Callum Hayne said Wadwell was the most dangerous player in the competition along with Bears skipper Scott Blanch and Narrabri flyer Brenton Cochrane.
So, yeah, it was pretty deep.
McManus is so confident in Cameron and Cocking’s abilities and composure that he expects to win Sunday’s clash off their go-forward.
“If we can get on the back of them everything will pan out for us,” he said. “They’ve got the job done for us so far. Hopefully they can keep doing it.
“Their heads are screwed on right. They’ll be right. I’ve got every confidence in the world in them.”
Sheridan, whom McManus describes as he side’s “little Mr Fix It”, will again start on the bench.
And in a further sign the stars have aligned for the Bears, veteran forward Nick Dobson will join him on the bench after recovering from a broken wrist sustained in round six
“That’s a bonus,” McManus said. “Everything is looking up.”
Meanwhile, Narrabri coach John Rumsby said it would be “scary” if the Blues played to their potential – even suggesting that side may suffer from having too much talent.
Narrabri play Collegian at home in the minor semi-final on Saturday, and Rumsby admitted that he was looking for better player cohesion.
He said the side’s inconsistency was largely due to “having a lot of talented footballers”.
“If we ever click we’ll be scary,” he said. “We like to tackle hard, we like to run hard and we’ve got good, talented footballers with a lot of footwork, at the same time.
“It comes down to all of us going in the same direction on the same day. If we play to our potential, we’ll give a lot of sides a lot of trouble.”
Narrabri are expected to dominate Collegian, but Rumsby said: “We’ve got to make sure we’re on our game and finish off.”