GROUP Nine president Jack Morton admits the timing of the annual representative duel with Group 20 has lengthened the odds of Group Nine claiming rugby league bragging rights in the Riverina.
Despite declaring he was delighted with the strength of the Group Nine team, Morton revealed on Monday there were serious obstacles in the path of the selected players.
“The way it has worked out the players will be playing their second game in two days,” Morton said.
“With City-Country on the Sunday (May 3), and all Group Nine club games on the Saturday, our players will have to back up twice on the weekend.
“It’s not ideal, but we will just have to make the best of it.”
Under a program set months ago, the Group Nine-Group 20 clash will be played as a curtain-raiser to the City-Country blockbuster at Equex Centre on Sunday week – and the five Group Nine club fixtures the previous day.
In contrast, Group 20 has scheduled a general bye for the weekend, leaving selected players to concentrate on the representative game.
Morton said the decision to play the City-Country game on a Sunday had obviously caught Group Nine on the hop.
“It’s (City-Country) been played on Saturday for the past three or four years, but it’s moved to Sunday this time,” Morton said.
Amid the turmoil, Morton believes Group Nine has the right mix of players to topple Group 20, which will be spearheaded by dynamic ex-Kangaroos hooker Glen Dumbrell.
“I’m very happy (with the team),” Morton said.
“It’s a good side all round.
“We’ve got an terrific set of forwards, and the backs are excellent as well.”
Morton, however, is patently aware the Group Nine players will risk injury in their club games the day prior to the representative showdown.
“Obviously they (players) could get hurt, and have to pull out,” Morton said.
“Really, it’s a reverse of the usual situation when the rep game is on a Saturday and the clubs games are on Sunday.
“Some players choose to play two games and other don’t.
“We’ll just have to hope for the best.”
Group Nine’s luck quickly turned sour on Monday when winger Phil Latu withdrew from the team due to a clash of commitments, with Daniel Foley a possible replacement.
New Tumut captain-coach Arana Taumata heads an impressive list of fresh talent in the Group Nine team.
Aside from Taumata, the Group Nine team has been boosted by recruits from across the 11 clubs, notably Ethan McGuire (Tumut), Naseri Naseri (Gundagai), Trent Schubach (Junee), Andrew Smith (Albury) and Matt Wakefield (Young).
Young captain-coach Luke Branighan was granted permission to be stand down from representative football, while Albury recruit Levi Freeman was ineligible for selection.
The Group Nine team will train for the first time at Harris Park on Wednesday, with coach Andrew Hinchcliffe facing an anxious wait until game day.
Group Nine team: Luke Berkrey (Cootamundra), Vincent Brown (Gundagai), Andrew Cowhan (Albury), Nota Fotu (Brothers), Michael Henderson (Temora), Ben Jeffery (Albury), Peter Little (Junee), Warren Lloyd (Kangaroos), James Luff (Gundagai), Kyle McCarthy (Southcity), Ethan McGuire(Tumut), Naseri Naseri (Gundagai), Nathan Rose (Southcity), Trent Schubach (Junee), Jordan Shepherd (Southcity), Nick Skinner (Southcity), Andrew Smith (Albury), Arana Taumata (Tumut), Matt Wakefield (Young). Coach: Andrew Hinchcliffe
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