Six Ghosts, one Rebel in next generation Gladiators
GROUP TWO has appointed former NRL star Steve Carter as coach and selected an extended 24-player squad in an effort to reverse its fortunes on the representative front.
The Gladiators have struggled in recent seasons against southern counterparts Group 3. The winning coach of the annual clash is rewarded with the North Coast coaching position and the winning side generally takes the lion's share of the squad.
Group 2 president Warren Gilkinson hopes the change of approach will translate into success in this year's clash at Taree on Saturday, April 30.
"To have someone who played 14 seasons in the NRL and played State of Origin come on board to help the region is very pleasing," Gilkinson said.
"He wanted to get involved in rugby league up here, but is too busy to be tied up with a club for the whole season. So we spoke to him about the group stuff and he jumped at it.
"Group 3 have had the upper hand on us in the old grudge match. We were looking for someone the players would really look up to."
As the Penrith Panthers' most capped player of all time, Carter brings a wealth of experience with 244 NRL matches under his belt between 1988 and 2001.
The 45-year-old has cast a close over the group, attending and speaking to players at preseason trials and matches in each of the first three rounds of competition. The squad trains for the first time at 6pm tonight at Geoff King Motors Complex in Coffs.
"Steve came up with the idea of an extended squad," Gilkinson said. "This way we've got 24 at training and if one bloke pulls out the next one comes in, instead of scratching around to bring blokes in.
"He's left out some players who've been there the last few years and brought in about five young blokes who will be our leaders in the future. He'll finalise the 24 down to 18 by next Wednesday."
Coffs Harbour Comets (7) and Grafton Ghosts (6) make up more than half the squad. Orara Valley Axemen were the only side overlooked. Hughie Stanley is the only player from defending premiers South Grafton Rebels.
"There's probably more Ghosts than before simply because they all put their hand up to play," Gilkinson said.
"We would've loved Grant Stevens from Rebels, but he has other commitments and is unavailable."
GROUP TWO GLADIATORS 24-MAN SQUAD
Miles Fairbank, Cory McGrady, Michael Spence, Shayde Perham, Matt Cheeseman, Nathan Curry, Nayceon Simon (Coffs Harbour); Ryan Binge, Mitch Gorman, Dylan Collett, Ben McLennan, Mitch Lollback, Jake Barnett (Grafton); Arron Woods, Daine Laurie, Sam Miles (Macksville); Lachlan Miller, Tyron Stevenson (Sawtell); Zac Johnson, Matt Fields (Nambucca Heads); Michael Curnow, Brad Collinson (Woolgoolga); Hugh Stanley (South Grafton); Luke Beaumont (Bellingen).