Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League dominates Greater Northern Tigers representative squad - with 10 players named

GREATER Northern men’s under-23 selectors have named a 20-man squad for the first round CRL Country Championship match against North Coast in Coffs Harbour next month.

However, changes can and will be made reckons their coach.

Peter Stevens will mentor the Greater Northern Tigers under-23s again but said nothing was concrete about that squad, which will be pruned to 17 (plus a travelling reserve) for the North Coast game on March 9.

“We are happy with the line-up,” he explained.

“Our biggest problem was picking the props and hookers. 

“There were so many who played so well.”

Four props have been named, James Ballinger (Inverell) and Isaac Austin (Scone) to start with Lincon Smith (Gunnedah) and Scott McIntyre (Armidale) to come off the bench.

Ballinger and Austin were two of the stars of the Tigers Championships at the weekend, along with Moree Boomerang back-rower Tristan Ward.

Ward, the goalkicking number 11 for Group 19, didn’t make it into the starting back-row, that going to Denman trio of Jordan Mulherin, Brady Benkovic and Andrew Pritchard, but has been selected on the wing.

Boggabri’s Matt Gillham was chosen as the starting hooker after he impressed for Group 4. 

The young Kangaroo earned his number nine jumper with an energetic effort off the bench.

Selectors are hoping the potential they saw at group level from Gillham can be reproduced and enhanced at divisional level.

“I’ve had a fair bit to do with a lot of these players, too,” Stevens said of the squad on Saturday afternoon.

“Many of them have come through the Tigers juniors (under-16 and 18) but Matt [Gillham] hasn’t.

“He has a good chance now at the next level.

“He’s one of three or four young blokes like Dewayne Nicholls (Moree Boomerangs), Lincon Smith (Gunnedah) and Tristan Ward (Moree Boomerangs) who were pretty solid.”

Group 21 dominated the Greater Northern Tigers Championships, winning the Jim Sharpe Cup with victories over Group 4 (28-12) and Group 19 (18-16) and then having 10 players named in the 20-man squad.

That squad, which was named in number and positional order, will be cut to 17 (plus a travelling reserve) for the March 9 clash with North Coast at Coffs. 

“We will have three or four training sessions before we play,” Stevens said.

“All of them in Tamworth. 

“But, we can make positional changes, too. 

“It will all depend on how well they all train. 

“That’ll determine the exact make-up of the side.”

GREATER NORTHERN TIGERS UNDER 23 MEN: 1 Will Nieuwenhuise (Singleton), 2 Harry Douglass (Aberdeen), 3 Hamish Wolfgang (Aberdeen), 4 Cameron French (Aberdeen), 5 Tristan Ward (Moree Boomerangs), 6 James Bradley (Singleton), 7 Mitch Doring (Manilla), 8 Isaac Austin (Scone), 9 Matt Gillham (Boggabri), 10 James Ballinger (Inverell), 11 Jordan Mulherin (Denman), 12 Brady Benkovic (Denman), 13 Andrew Pritchard (Denman), 14 Mitch Sheridan (North Tamworth), 15 Lincon Smith (Gunnedah), 16 Jock Small (Narrabri), 17 Scott McIntyre (Armidale), 18 Hayden Smith (Gunnedah), 19 Luke Rees (Denman), Dewayne Nicholls (Moree Boomerangs); coach - Peter Stevens