GREATER Northern Mens under-23 selectors have named a 20-man squad for the first round CRL Country Championship match against North Coast in Coffs Harbour next month but changes can and will be made reckons their coach.
Peter Stevens will coach the Tigers again but said nothing is concrete about that squad, which will be pruned to 17 (plus a travelling reserve) for the game on March 9.
“We are happy with the squad,” Stevens said.
“Our biggest problem was picking the props and hookers. There were so many that played so well.”
Four props have been named, James Ballinger (Inverell) and Isaac Austin (Scone) to start with Lincon Smith (Gunnedah) and Scott McIntyre (Armidale) to come off the bench.
Ballinger and Austin were two of the stars of the Tiger Championships along with Moree Boomerang backrower Tristan Ward.
Ward, the goalkicking number 11 for Group 19, didn’t make it into the starting backrow, that going to Denman trio of Jordan Mulherin, Brady Benkovic and Andrew Pritchard, but has been named on the wing.
Boggabri’s Matt Gillham has been named the starting hooker after he impressed for Group 4.
The young Kangaroo earned his number nine jumper with an energetic effort off the bench for Group 4. Selectors are hoping the potential they saw at Group level from Gillham can be reproduced and enhanced at Divisional level.
“I’ve had a fair bit to do with a lot of these players too,” Stevens said of the squad on Saturday afternoon.
“Many of them have come through the Tiger juniors (under-16 and 18) but Matt Gillham hasn’t. He has a good chance now at the next level. He’s one of three or four young blokes like Dewayne Nicholls (Moree Boomerangs), Lincon Smith and Tristan Ward who were pretty solid today.”
Group 21 dominated the Greater Northern Tigers Championships, winning the Jim Sharpe Cup with wins over Group 4 (28-12) and Group 19 (18-16) and then having 10 players named in the squad.
“We will have three or four training sessions before we play,” Stevens said.
“All of them in Tamworth. But we can make positional changes too. It will all depend on how well they all train. That will determine the exact make-up of the side.”
GREATER NORTHERN TIGERS UNDER 23 MEN: 1 Will Nieuwenhuise (Singleton), 2 Harry Douglas (Aberdeen), 3 Hamish Wolfgang (Aberdeen), 4 Cameron French (Aberdeen), 5 Tristan Ward (Moree Boomerangs), 6 James Bradley (Singleton), 7 Mitch Doring (Manilla), 8 Isaac Austin (Scone), 9 Matt Gillham (Boggabri), 10 James Ballinger (Inverell), 11 Jordan Mulherin (Denman), 12 Brady Benkovic (Denman), 13 Andrew Pritchard (Denman), 14 Mitch Sheridan (North Tamworth), 15 Lincon Smith (Gunnedah), 16 Jock Small (Narrabri), 17 Scott McIntyre (Armidale), 18 Hayden Smith (Gunnedah), 19 Luke Rees (Denman), Dewayne Nicholls (Moree Boomerangs). Coach – Peter Stevens.