Carnival of rugby
By TONY WHITE
GRAFTON will host the NSW Under-14 and Under-15 Country Rugby Championships at Rugby Park, South Grafton this weekend.
Around 300 players from eight state zones and 13 teams will take part in the annual series hosted by the Grafton Redmen beginning at 9am on Saturday. Semi-finals, finals and play-offs will be conducted on Sunday.
Yamba rugby stars Jed Holloway and Evan Rice have been selected in the Far North Coast (FNC) Under-14 team. All players will be striving for selection in country teams to tackle Sydney and the ACT in July and August.
The FNC Under-14s are scheduled to take on Central West and the FNC Under-15s tackle Illawarra in opening pool rounds.
The Under-16 and Under-17 NSW Country Championships were staged in Mooree last weekend.
Maclean's Kane Douglas was named this week in the Country Under-17 team and Grafton's Bryce Speechley in the Under-16 squad.
The Under-16s have one more selection trial before making the country team.
NSW Country Rugby Junior president David Paul said the series was an important facet for developing junior talent.
"We've got to make sure there is a pathway for our young players," Paul said.
"The idea is to improve their skills and provide the same opportunities as their Sydney counter parts.
"Once there was a time any kid showing promise would be forced to leave country areas to further their career but now they can live in their own area and have a development path to follow with appropriate skill coaching.
"Representing country against Sydney is a big thing for boy's from the bush."