Clarence juniors to take on the best with Group 1 Taipans
RUGBY LEAGUE: Clarence Valley juniors have made the trip to Port Macquarie to compete in the 14s and 15s Northern Zone Country Championships this weekend, with 13 talented juniors selected in the Group 1 Taipans across both grades.
The 14s side consists of nine Clarence juniors, including five from the Grafton Ghosts, two from the Clarence Coast Magpies and two from the South Grafton Rebels.
Ghosts coach Rhys Hambly was selected as the 14s coach for the tournament and he is going to be "there to prove the doubters worng" with a skilful bunch of boys.
"I've never coached any representative footy, I've coached at the Ghosts for five years but this will be my first time doing anything like this," Hambly said.
"They're a really good group of boys. We've been training together for the last two months and you can tell the difference in the players' attitudes in this side, they've stepped up to the challenge well."
Hambly had the difficult task of bringing boys from seven different teams together as one unit but he said they had bonded really well.
"It helps having so many Ghosts in the team because a lot of them already knew the plays. It was a bit harder with a few of the others and there's always rivalry between them, especially with guys from Ballina, the boys stirring each other up," he said.
"But they've gotten to know each other really well and jelled as a team. We had a camp last week and I couldn't separate them.
"We're lucky enough to have some of the best players in the group from Grafton and I'm really backing guys like Gabriel Papadakis and Thomas Bowles to step up."
Both the 14s and 15s will take on Maitland in the opening round tomorrow for a shot at a semi-final berth against the winners of a Group 21 and Group 19 playoff on Sunday but Hambly said he believed his side was fortunate with its fixtures. "We definitely got the good side of draw so hopefully we can beat Maitland and go straight in to the semi-final," he said.
Hambly was thankful to have the golden opportunity that has allowed him to work with some of the stars of the region.
"The whole experience has been great, I've had guys like Jamie Lyon and a few well-known coaches in the area helping out. I'm really excited to see how a few local boys go and how we play as a team," he said.
Clarence Valley players in Group 1 Taipans- 14s: Harry Anderson, Gabriel Papadakis, Thomas Bowles, Kalyn Squires, Hamish Speed (Grafton), Keaton Stutt (South Grafton), William Mendes, Malik Elabbasi (Clarence Coast).
15s: Michael Hughes, Nicholas Torrens, Jake Lenard, Talon Anderson (Clarence Coast) Jamal Laurie (South Grafton).