By CHRIS GILMORE
NORTHERN Rivers are the NSW Country Under-18 divisional champions in rugby league after defeating Western Division 40-6 at Queanbeyan's Seiffert Oval on Saturday.
And to cap off the achievement, six local players have been selected in the NSW Country team.
Northern Rivers coach Wayne Cullen was elated with the win.
"We've saved the best for last," he said.
"We controlled the game from start to finish, all 17 of them played sensational.
"I couldn't pick a best player, they were all great."
Ballina's Mitch Aubusson, Tom Court, James Rix and Clarence Kelly, Marist Brothers' Harry Witt and Tweed Heads Seagulls' David Baumann were selected in the NSW Country Under-18 team.
The win caps almost two months of preparation which began with selection trials on Anzac Day.
The team played its first round match against Northern Division as a curtain-raiser to the City Origin v Country Origin game at Oakes Oval, Lismore, on May 6.
They were lucky to make it through the semi-finals against North Coast last weekend after requiring extra-time.
But no-one could dispute their win in the final.
Two tries to Marist Brothers' Trent Clark paved the way for the thrashing of Western Division, a team which covers an area stretching west from Dubbo.
Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League secretary Doug Harrison was among those who made the trip south for the game.
He said Rix and Aubusson were very strong in attack and defence, while hooker Witt made excellent metres from dummy-half.
"Their defensive work was first class and did not allow the opposition any latitude," Harrison said.
The team was also hampered by a poor preparation and did not arrive in the ACT until the night before the game.
Many of the Northern Rivers players backed up yesterday for their local clubs.
It was Northern Rivers' first win in the competition since 2000.