Tumut Blues junior rugby league prospects Will Casey, Joe Roddy, Ethan Gilchrist and Jack Hillier have all been selected in the Riverina Bulls side that will contest the Laurie Daley Cup.
The state-wide under 18s representative competition is viewed as a major stepping-stone to higher rugby league honours.
The selection process was gruelling according to coach, Tim Humphries, who highlighted what the four boys had gone through in recent months.
“The initial squad was picked back in October, we had trials and over 80 kids attended, and from that we selected around 30 and then we had a trial against Monaro over in Canberra and we cut back to 25 and we have been training with that 25, and this week we pulled that back to 18,” Humphries said.
Humphries said the four Tumut players would be in the final 17, with three of them earning starting positions ahead of their first game against Monaro.
“We will take the 18 in case of an injury in warm up and anything could happen but they are all in the 17-man squad for the first game,” Humphries said.
“Jack will be in the front row, Will has been selected in the row, Joe has worked hard and earned a position in the centres and Ethan will come off the bench as a back-up lock, hooker and will be a bit of a utility in that sense.”
The Riverina Bulls coach couldn’t praise to the Tumut contingent enough, explaining they had done everything asked of them.
“They have been really good. It is a quite bunch boys right across the board. It’s been a hot summer but they turn up, put the effort in and we need to take into consideration they are travelling but they always turn up,” Humphries said.
“They are always ready to go and get in there and do the hard work and they are representing their community really well.”
The youngest of the quartet is Joe Roddy, who has made the step up from captaining the under 16s Riverina Bulls side in 2020, before returning from a nasty leg injury that he suffered when playing with the Tumut Blues last year.
“Joe has done really well, he was hesitant at the start to come back in from his injury, he has been really disciplined with his rehab, and his fitness is just outstanding and his effort and attitude is second to none,” Humphries said.
“You would love to sprinkle his attitude on everyone, he deserves his opportunity and yes, he is bottom age, but we have quite a few bottom age players, and we selected the team on ability, not age.”
With the team selected and all players set for a big five weeks of rep rugby league, the side will commence the competition with an away trip to the South Coast to play Monaro next weekend, before kicking on and playing other NSW regional sides in the hope to play finals and potentially win the overall competition.
“We have Monaro on the South Coast on Saturday week. We will travel Friday and we will train on the way in Canberra and then keep travelling and stay overnight and let the boys have a good sleep, rest up and be prepared to play on the Saturday,” Humphries sad.
“There will be a tough five rounds and hopefully finals after that – finals are definitely our goal.”
While Riverina doing well in the under 18s competition is a big concern for organisers, there is a much larger focus on player development and pathways through to the Canberra Raiders.
“For us (Riverina) and Monaro, this is a pathway to the Canberra Raiders, and our goal is to be developing players to one day be a Raider,” Humphries said.
“We have a really close affiliation with the Raiders, they have close eyes on these boys and I’m pretty sure they will be watching with interest to see how the boys stand up with that representative level.”