By TONY WHITE
FIVE promising Clarence Valley Under-16 rugby league players have been selected to attend a two-day, all expenses paid training camp this weekend hosted by National Rugby League aspirants, the Gold Coast Dolphins.
Jason Hackett, Tom MacInnes, Daniel Bligh, Dan Roberts and Byron Aitken will attend the Dolphins Academy, which began yesterday, based at Runaway Bay.
Hackett, a front rower, and second rower MacInnes are Grafton representative players, Bligh (front row) and halfback Roberts play for South Grafton, and Aitken (hooker) hails from Yamba and attends Maclean High.
Bligh, Aitken, Hackett and MacInnes recently turned out for the Northern Rivers team against Palm Beach-Currumbin in a curtain-raiser to the Parramatta-Cronulla NRL trial match at Oakes Oval, Lismore.
MacInnes was voted last season's Group One representative player of the year. Mullumbimby's Kurt Mulcahy, a current Australian Schoolboy representative, who also played for Northern Rivers, is another leading junior invited to attend the camp.
"It's a fun weekend and hopefully it will give the boys an axis and introduction into the big time," Dolphins Academy director and Penrith's 2003 grand final hero, Scott Sattler, said.
"We're not trying to poach players. We're working in a collaborative way, professionally, trying to have principles in place and a base that if we get the nod to join the NRL, we will have a solid structure already in place.
"We are trying to develop local talent through the academy and give the players a future avenue into the game."
The Dolphins are one of several clubs vying for a place in an expanded NRL competition. The NRL board will make a decision on any expansion in August. The camp consists of 24 players from the Northern Rivers and Southern Division. Apart from training under distinguished coaches and lecturers, camp members will also attend the Brisbane Broncos-Melbourne Storm trial game at Carrara Stadium tonight. And in what should be a major highlight, the academy members will be introduced in centre field at halftime during the main game.