SYDNEY Roosters star Latrell Mitchell has confirmed he will play for Taree Biripi Sharks in this weekend’s NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout in Sydney.
Mitchell, who has been mentioned as a bolter for selection in the Australian side for the World Cup, confirmed this week he’ll be a starter in the knockout after the Roosters bowed out of the premiership race last weekend when beaten by North Queensland. The 20-year-old is coming off a stellar season with the Roosters.
Biripi manager Ralph Saunders said Mitchell will play five-eighth, the position he spearheaded Biripi to a quarter-final spot last year. The Sharks were eliminated by eventual champions Redfern All Blacks.
Queensland Residents representative Christian Hazard will also be turning out for the Sharks. Hazard, a halfback, turned out with Redcliffe in the Intrust Super Cup this year. Although born in Toowoomba, Hazard grew up in Taree.
Mitchell will be joined by Roosters lower grade player Kiah Cooper, a centre or winger, who was a member with the club’s premiership winning Holden Cup side in 2016. Cooper hails from Newcastle but has opted to play for Biripi in the knockout.
“I think this is the best side we’ve ever had,’’ team manager Ralph Saunders said.
While there’s abundant try scoring potential in the backs, Saunders is confident the forwards will hold their own.
“We’ll have big Shaq (Mitchell) up front and he’ll lead the way,’’ he said.
“Lionel Mitchell, Tom Dooker and Doug Ferguson will be there and we have a few players in the backs who can fill in as back rowers if needed. Shaq probably lacked a bit of support last year, but he’ll have he’ll be right this weekend.’’
Shane Glass will again coach the side and Saunders said the majority of players are from the Group Three area. They’ve been training for about six weeks. The knockout will start tomorrow with the finals on Monday. All games will be played at Leichhardt Oval. Redfern All Blacks will be the defending champions and favourites for this weekend. The draw was finalised on Wednesday night but hadn’t been made public at the time of going to press.
Team targets finals berth
BIRIPI Sharks made finals day (Monday) in the under 17 division of the NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout last year.
“I think we have a stronger team this year,’’ Sharks spokesman Ralph Saunders said.
“There are some big boys there and a lot of speed as well. They should go pretty well.’’
The Sharks will also field a women’s side for the first time. Saunders agreed Biripi will lack some rugby league expertise, but said the players have extensive touch football and league tag experience. Redfern All Black won the inaugural NSW Women’s Rugby League premiership last weekend.