Ten players from the Canberra Raiders Cup have been chosen in the NSW Country U23 side set to take on Samoa and Scotland in the lead up to this year’s Rugby League World Cup.
Having represented Monaro in the U23 Country Championships final last weekend at Newcastle, the team captained by Brett Solomon claimed an historic 18-14 win against Newcastle to impress the selectors.
“It’s a massive honour to be selected in representative teams,” Solomon said. “When you are versing high quality opponents, it will be a good challenge for the boys.”
Monaro coach, Ash Barnes, was equally proud of the achievements of his players.
“I think that it’s great that we got so many player’s in,” Barnes said. “I think a number of players are really unlucky not to make the squad as well.”
Having coached Monaro to the inaugural U23 Country Championships, Barnes was thrilled with the performance of his side to claim the title.
“I’m ecstatic,” Barnes said. “The boys were outstanding and thoroughly deserved to come away with victory after eight long weeks of preparation to play four consecutive games, three of which were away trips.”
Captain, Brett Solomon, was not only pleased by the win but the manner in which Monaro were able to hold off a strong Newcastle side towards the end of the game.
“It’s a massive achievement for Monaro to be the first U23 team to take out the Country Championships,” Solomon said. “The game was a very high quality game, Newcastle are a very high quality side, and the game was end to end footy with hardly any mistakes and that showed in the score line.”
“The momentum shifted multiple times throughout the game and during the late momentum shift when we had a four point lead, we did well as a team to hold on.
“Since week one, we knew we were a quality side and that we could shake the competition but it’s pretty hard to expect to win grand finals. It wasn’t one of our expectations but it’s a massive achievement.”
NSW Country U23's Representative Squad
1. Jamie Ghoulmieh (Lakes United)
2. Jedidiah Simbiken (Queanbeyan Kangaroos)
3. Ryley Thomas (West Belconnen Warriors)
4. Jacob Gagai (Lakes United)
5. William Tom
6. Kouri Apouri (Wyong)
7. Jack Hickson (Woden Valley Rams)
8. Roman Fepuleai (South Newcastle)
9. Kruz Tupou (Yass Magpies)
10. Mitch Shaw (West Belconnen Warriors)
11. Jake Lawrence (South Newcastle)
12. Tori Freeman (West Belconnen Warriors)
13. Josh Baker (Queanbeyan Blues)
14. Lincoln Smith (Maitland)
15. Brett Solomon (Tuggeranong Bushrangers)
16. Luke Higgins (South Newcastle)
17. Jarrod Smith (Maitland)
18. Sam Kennan (West Newcastle)
19. Clevland McGhie (Woden Valley Rams)
20. Jake Wheeler (Queanbeyan Blues)
Coach: Josh Cale