Group 19’s under 23s team came close to securing the Greater Northern Championships trophy after two impressive performances.
The young side, who only have one player graduating out of the 23s age group next year, opened their campaign with a close 18-16 loss to the highly-fancied Group 21 outfit, before finishing with a dominant 38-nil shut out against Group 4.
Group 19 coach Chris Binge was thrilled with the way his side performed across the two games.
“A lot of people coming here today had written us off based on previous performances but I knew I had a good side,” he said.
“I knew the work they had put in and I was pretty confident in the effort they could put out today.”
From their performances, four Group 19 players earned selection in the Greater Northern team to tackle the Country Championships.
Armidale front-rower Scott McIntyre, Group 19 captain and Inverell Hawks forward James Ballinger as well as Moree Boomerangs players Tristan Duncan-Ward and DeWayne Nicholls were named in the team.
Binge was pleased to see four of his players progress further through the ranks and get selected for the Greater Northern side.
“We talked about it at training, it was more about what the team could do and if the team could perform, then obviously the individual selection processes pushing forward, that was going to take care of itself and that's exactly how it panned out,” he said.
“To get four blokes through after that effort today is pretty big for Group 19, and I think in the years to come we can only improve and get better, and if that happens then it's all good for the group.”
Binge sees a bright future for this playing group, with the majority of the squad still eligible for selection next year, and is keen to continue working with them.
“If the Group’s willing to have me around for the next year or two then I'm more than happy to help with the development of these kids,” he said.
“We've got a pretty good camaraderie amongst this team and I think that in itself is gonna put us in good stead moving forward.
“If they want to come back I'd love to be back with them.”
The first game for the Greater Northern Tigers will be against North Coast in Coffs Harbour on March 9 before they are scheduled to take on Northern Rivers at Bellevue Oval on March 16.
Peter Stevens will coach theside again but said nothing is concrete about that squad, which will be pruned to 18, including a traveling reserve.
“We are happy with the squad,” Stevens said.
“Our biggest problem was picking the props and hookers. There were so many that played so well.”
Four props have been named with Ballinger named in the starting line-up alongside Scone’s Isaac Austin.
McIntyre and Gunnedah’s Lincon Smith were named on the bench. Ballinger and Austin were two of the stars of the Tiger Championships along with Moree backrower Tristan Duncan-Ward.
Duncan-Ward didn’t make it into the starting backrow, that going to Denman trio of Jordan Mulherin, Brady Benkovic and Andrew Pritchard, but has been named on the wing.
“I’ve had a fair bit to do with a lot of these players too,” Stevens said.
“Many of them have come through the Tiger juniors but Matt Gillham hasn’t.
“He’s one of three or four young blokes like Dewayne Nicholls, Lincon Smith and Tristan Duncan-Ward who were pretty solid.”