North Coast to tackle Northern Rivers

Old Bar's Shannon Ellem will lead North Coast into the Country under 23 semi-final against Northern Rivers on Saturday at Sawtell.
Old Bar's Shannon Ellem will lead North Coast into the Country under 23 semi-final against Northern Rivers on Saturday at Sawtell.

NORTH Coast coach Dean Hurrell believes ‘a handful’ of his players are right in line for selection in the NSW Country Rugby League team to tour Papua New Guinea in October.

He was speaking on the eve of North Coast’s Country under 23 championship semi-final showdown against Northern Rivers at Sawtell tomorrow.

Hurrell said his players can further push their claims for Country selection with a strong showing against the northern combination, so earning a place in the championship final.

Winner of tomorrow’s game will progress to the decider to meet the winner of the southern pool.

Illawarra South Coast and defending champions Monaro Colts will clash in the southern semi at Goulburn tomorrow.

“This is a great opportunity for my players,’’ Hurrell said,

“I’d rate a handful a real chance of making the Country team and others can put their hand up with a strong game tomorrow and again if we make the final.’’

Hurrell added that NRL club scouts would also be expected to show some interest in the finals series.

North Coast marched into the semi with an upset win over Central Coast in the opening match followed by a dominating performance last weekend over CRL Newcastle in the quarter final.

Hurrell will take the same side into tomorrow’s clash as defeated Central Coast, meaning Taree City’s Dean Mills will drop out of the squad. North Coast will head to Sawtell today and have a training run this evening.

“We’ve played enough games together now to know what’s needed,’’ Hurrell said.

He said the game will be won and lost in the middle, with Northern Rivers to boast a strong pack. However, he is confident the North Coast forwards, led by Shannon Ellem from Old Bar, will be equal to the task. Ellem will pack down in the second row with Wingham’s Jake Mullen.

Hurrell said Forster-Tuncurry utility Riley Glover is set to play an important role.

“He’ll play half the game if all goes to plan,’’ Hurrell said.

Glover will start from the bench but will deputise with Port Macquarie liverwire hooker Mitch Wilbow. Hurrell said Glover will also be used in the halves as some point in the game.

Saturday’s encounter will kickoff at 12.10.