Ex-NRL pair in initial squad
FORMER NRL players Dean Widders and Clinton Toopi are the surprise inclusions in the preliminary Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League representative side.
The pair plays for Cudgen in the Bycroft Cup competition on the Gold Coast but have made themselves available for the NRRRL side at the Country Championships
Cudgen and the Tweed Coast Raiders decided to leave the NRRRL at the end of last season.
"(Country Rugby League chief executive) Terry Quinn made a deal with Queensland Rugby League officials that those two clubs can choose to play rep footy with us or in Queensland," NRRRL president Brian Rix said.
Former NRL wingers Luke Covell and Roy Bell have also made the 30-man squad along with Grafton Ghosts' second-rower Aaron Hartmann, who has spent time with the Newcastle Knights.
Bell is in some doubt with a judiciary hearing this week after he was sent off for an alleged headbutt in the game against Mullumbimby on Sunday.
The Ghosts and Byron Bay make up one third of the squad with five players selected from each club.
Kyogle has been rewarded for their strong start to the season with captain-coach Cameron Mulchay and outside backs Courtney Nagas and Jono Macili selected.
Former NSW Country representative Clarence Kelly was also selected despite having not played a game this season due to a suspension for a head high tackle in the NRRRL semi-finals last season.
Notable omissions include former English Super League player and Murwillumbah lock Damian Quinn.
Despite winning the NRRRL player of the year last season, Marist Brothers front-rower Darryl Butcher missed out for the second consecutive year.
Northern United fullback Nathanial Reguira and front-rower Les Roberts wouldn't have been out of place in the side either.
Mullumbimby and the Casino Cougars are the only teams not to have anyone selected.
The team was selected by the panel of Robin Harley, Barry Harmon, Max Beecher, Tony Durheim and new coach Jamie McCormack.
McCormack has had coaching roles with the Gold Coast Titans and is currently the education and development officer with the QRL.
"I saw a couple of games and I relied on the selectors to pick the team," McCormack said.
"We've picked the dominant players in the competition and I think we have all the right people on board."
"With the support of the playing group, I see no reason why we can't be a success.
The final squad of 17 will be named after a trial at Bilambil next Tuesday night.
The team will train at Ballina on May16 and June 6, with an overnight camp planned at Evans Head on May 25.
They will play at Newcastle against Canberra on June 16.