FORMER Ballina Seagulls rugby league player Mitchell Aubusson is a step closer to playing State of Origin in 2011 after being selected in the NSW Country Origin team.
The 23-year-old has been named as 18th man in the team that will line up against City at Lavington Sports Ground, Albury, on Friday night.
Seagulls president Max Beecher believes the best is yet to come for Aubusson.
“He has always been an achiever and last year he took that next step under coach Brian Smith,” Beecher said.
“Mitch is probably a bit unlucky; he plays his best football at second row and they’ve (Roosters) had him playing in the centres in recent weeks.
“The Roosters have been playing poorly and that doesn’t help either. On his day he (Aubusson) runs one of the best lines of any second rower in the competition.”
After making the 51-man Blues In Waiting camp in January, Aubusson withdrew because it clashed with the wedding of his brother James, who is a former NRL player at the Roosters.
“I know he was disappointed that he missed out on the camp,” Beecher said.
“I don’t think it’s beyond him to get the call up to play for the Blues this year.
“I have no doubts he’ll get his chance in the next year or two.”
Notable omissions from the Country squad were Luke Douglas (Yamba) and David Mead (Lismore).
City and Country Origin stars have been told to rip into a genuine NSW Rugby League selection trial on Friday night, with a host of positions still up for grabs ahead of the series against Queensland.
Blues coach Ricky Stuart will travel to Albury this week to watch his State of Origin hopefuls first-hand and, although he has said the make-up of the side is taking shape in his mind, it appears he is still open to being persuaded.
Fullback, one wing position, left centre, front-row, hooker and the bench all have big question marks over them and, as City and Country players assembled on Monday, they were under no illusions as to what they were playing for.
“That’s what they said to us .... that it’s a genuine trial and there’s plenty of positions up for grabs,” City halfback Mitchell Pearce said.
“All the boys will be really hungry to stamp their claim.”
Jarryd Hayne’s surprise exclusion from the Test side showed how few certainties there are and his developing rivalry with Canberra star Josh Dugan will take on bigger than expected proportions.
“I think I’ve proven myself at the next level,” said Dugan.