16 ... our lucky No.


AT LAST ... an NRL club for local juniors to aspire to and a team for us to support!

What great news for this region with the inclusion of the Gold Coast in the competition as the 16th team in 2007.

For the past few years any promising local kids have had to make the move to Sydney to further their careers.

Hopefully, the new Gold Coast side will recognise that we have a great junior player base in this region, evidenced by the success of our Rivers Under 18 side, finalists in the Country Championship following last weekend's win over North Coast (see separate report).

In a pro-active move, the Gold Coast club has already got a number of our promising Under 16 players in an academy squad that gets expert training and advice on what it takes to be a professional rugby league player.

With a group of good, passionate people involved in the club, I'm sure the venture will be a lot more successful than last time the Gold Coast was in the NRL.

GO THE ?????.

Under 18s in final

AFTER the senior side was beaten by Newcastle two weeks ago, it was left to our Under 18s to fly the flag for our region and fly it proudly they have done.

Last weekend the side had a hard-fought extra time win over North Coast to progress to the final of the Country Championship this weekend against Riverina in Canberra.

The match against North Coast was a physical one that had spectators intrigued throughout.

While it's unfair to single out one player, prop James Rix produced a Herculean effort for Rivers and should come into calculations when the NSW Country side is announced after the final.

Coach Wayne Cullen has done a great job with the side and we wish them all the best this weekend.

Kyogle's big day

THIS weekend sees the Kyogle Junior League Club host its annual carnival.

Having been involved in junior league for many years, I can tell you that Kyogle runs the best carnival anywhere, attracting teams from all over the region.

Please remember the day is for the kids and a lot of the referees are only young and doing their best.

Trophies are handed out to the winners at the end of the day but the Kyogle club ensure everyone is a winner by hosting a great day.

I think it's time Group One Junior League started doing some publicity for their competition.

I don't know if anyone up in the ivory tower has appointed a publicity officer.

If they have, tell them to start letting people know about what a great product we have and how the clubs are going and where games are being held.

Last weekend's Under 13-14 cluster in Ballina got no publicity (except in this column) and it was a great opportunity to let people see the best young players in Northern NSW.

The Origin

WHAT a great game to kick-off this year's series.

The Maroons worked very hard for the victory, but NSW can take a lot out of the game.

The Blues only really got into the game in the last 30 minutes.

The big NSW problem was lack of ball, which meant the forwards had to defend for long periods and the dangerous NSW backs ? Minichiello, Gasnier and King ? saw little of possession.

In Game Two, if NSW gets 50 per cent ofthe ball, I have no doubt they will win.

Brett Kimmorley has been crucified for throwing the intercept, but I think it's a bit harsh. If it comes off, Cooper scores. He was trying to win the game for his side, not lose it.

Goose of Week

THIS week's award winner, the NRL Judiciary, for overturning Shane (the Spitter) Dunley's suspension. Everyone saw the footage of the incident and can make up their own minds. The judiciary has been handing out a lot of suspensions this season and in my opinion the biggest mistake they made was not giving him a longer stint on the sidelines.

Players' award

NATHAN Hindmarsh and Craig Fitzgibbon ... in Origin One they took the terms 'effort' and 'commitment' to a whole new level. A special mention to Matt Bowen ... his game for the Cowboys should act as a message to all kids that you don't have to be big to be a good footy player.

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