GREATER Northern Tigers are on the rugby league radar of the Canterbury Bulldogs.
While the Newcastle Knights once used the region as a "breeding ground" and the Wests Tigers more recently with their efforts to play one of their NRL games in Tamworth each season, the Bulldogs are also keen to form a relationship.
Greater Northern Region area manager Scott Bone said Canterbury officials would announce a new partnership with the Greater Northern and the three Groups - 4, 19 and 21 - that make up the GNR on Thursday.
"It's in line with all the other country regions," he explained.
"We are the last to be officially linked to an NRL club.
"Northern Rivers have the Titans, North Coast are also with the Bulldogs, the Central Coast is with the Sydney Roosters and Newcastle, Maitland, obviously, with the Knights.
"The Wests Tigers have that Group 6 Camden area, the Dragons are linked to the Illawarra South Coast, Western is with the Penrith Panthers and the Monaro Riverina with the Canberra Raiders.
"The Bulldogs will help us with our resources and up-skilling of coaches in the area.
"It's also about lending support to the junior leagues and helping improve the coaches and coaching standards at that level."
He said the Knights once regarded the region as "theirs" and attracted many outstanding young players such as Robbie McCormack (Inverell), Brad Tighe (Tamworth), current Cronulla coach John Morris (Scone) and Werris Creek's Matt Parsons (via St George) to their ranks.
"Canterbury also had some great links with the region, too, in the late '80s," Bone added.
"The McGradys and Ryan boys from Moree all played down there, Gunnedah's David (Dooga) McCantoo, Muswellbrook's Jamie Feeney played there and more recently Kerrod Holland, who started out at Singleton but then went to Cessnock and Knights is now in their first grade side.
"Players like Jimmy Leis (Tamworth), who went to Wests first but finished up at the Bulldogs, have great links with the club."
Even the late great Mick Adams, a former England captain, finished his career with Canterbury, before making Tamworth his home and kept the Bulldog link to the region real.
"It would be great to be able to work with the Bulldogs to provide a pathway for all our kids," Bone said.
"If we could work in together everyone in the region, from Tenterfield out to Moree and down into the Hunter, would benefit."
Representatives from Country Rugby League and the Bulldogs will announce the partnership between the Bulldogs and the Greater Northern Region at Singleton on Thursday afternoon.
CRL chief executive Terry Quinn, CRL high performance manager Matt Parish and Canterbury officials Gareth Holmes (football operations manager) and Mark Hughes (recruitment coordinator) will join those from Greater Northern Region for the announcement.