READY FOR ACTION: Ben Liyou is hoping to put in a strong performance in the Country Championship final against Western Rams.
READY FOR ACTION: Ben Liyou is hoping to put in a strong performance in the Country Championship final against Western Rams. Jarrard Potter

Clarence juniors battling it out on CRL biggest stage

RUGBY LEAGUE: The Clarence Valley's best junior league stars are taking centre stage of bush football this month as the Andrew Johns Cup and Laurie Daley Cup kick into full gear.

Lower Clarence Magpies junior Ethan Foster has already had his chance to shine in the first round of the competition with his Under 16 Northern Rivers Marlins side earning a well-fought 22-12 win against the Newcastle Knights development squad.

Fellow Magpies junior Pat O'Mahony is also in the Marlins squad for the Andrew Johns Cup and is expected to get his first start for the side when they return from the bye next weekend.

The Magpies will also be represented in the Marlins' Laurie Daley Cup campaign with Under 18s stars Cooper Many and Tommy Simpson both named in the 2018 squad.

Meanwhile Grafton Ghosts juniors Ben Liyou, Jake Martin and James Martin will get their first taste of Under 18s action this weekend for the North Coast Dolphins after coming off the bye in round one.

The trio will be joined by former South Grafton Rebels utility Lewis Cooper in the side which will journey to Wauchope on Saturday to meet the Central Coast Roosters.

Lower Clarence junior Ethan Foster was signed on a junior development contract to the Gold Coast Titans last year.
Lower Clarence junior Ethan Foster was signed on a junior development contract to the Gold Coast Titans last year. Contributed

Gold Coast Titans development officer and Grafton Ghosts Under 18s coach Shaun Davison has been tasked with mentoring the Northern Rivers Under 16 side and said he was impressed after the first round of the new initiatives.

"Back in the old Country Championships the Northern Rivers and North Coast would have been combined under the East Coast Dolphins banner but they have split us up into sub-regions now,” he said.

"It's great because it puts more teams in the competition and gives more young players a chance to represent at this level.

"It is really great to be part of something that has that Andrew Johns name attached to it. He was a great footballer and you have to admire his influence on the game.”

Under the revamped model, most sides have aligned with top-level NRL clubs and that is only expected to continue with Gold Coast Titans in discussions to form an allegiance with the Marlins.

Country Rugby League hopes the competitions will provide junior footballers a more direct pathway to the top grades.

Northern Rivers will return to action in round three when they travel to Coffs Harbour for a local derby showdown against the Dolphins on March 10.



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