TOP EFFORT: James Hughes (left) and Luke Roberts are the first Magpies to be selected in the NRRRL rep side in years. Photo: Matthew McInerney
TOP EFFORT: James Hughes (left) and Luke Roberts are the first Magpies to be selected in the NRRRL rep side in years. Photo: Matthew McInerney

Lower Clarence Magpie duo soar in Group 1 rep side

THEY might not know it yet, but the names of teenagers Luke Roberts and James Hughes will forever be etched in Lower Clarence Magpies history.

Later today, the duo will become the first Magpies in more than five years to be selected in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League under-18s team to face their Group 2 and Group 3 rivals.

Those games double up as selections to the East Coast Dolphins team, which Grafton Ghost and Group 2 rep Jayden McDonagh made it to last season.

It is a feat considering Roberts had taken a year off from the sport in 2011 and flirted with rugby union in the meantime, and Hughes had started his career in a different football code.

"I used to play soccer," Hughes said.

"I played for Lawrence and Westlawn Tigers for seven years before starting league in U14s.

"A few of my mates were playing for the Rebels and they kept asking me to play and I eventually said yes. Mum wasn't too happy, though - she thought I'd get injured."

She proved to be bang on the money with her concerns, with the now-16-year-old tearing his lat in the first season and breaking his shoulder in the second.

But he has grown accustomed to the sport since, proving to be such a handy addition that the South Grafton High student earned a call-up to the Northern Rivers Academy side last year.

Roberts learnt of his selection while out with injury after the Magpies clash with Casino last week.

"Coach called me up after the game and told me I was in the team," Roberts said.

"I was surprised we got picked."

The 17-year-old lock has been something of a utility weapon during his short career, spending time in the backline as well more recently locking the scrum.

"I enjoyed the backs but I just kept getting bigger," Roberts said.

"I only got one game of 18s last year against the Ghosts and got 'man of the match'. I've been playing rugby sevens for three years and I've played with a few of these rep guys before in the North Coast team."

The Magpies will send three grades to Murwillumbah tomorrow for their clash with the Mustangs. U18s start at noon.

 McDonagh will share his story in Monday's The Daily Examiner.



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