The lure of Leichhardt Oval is proving a powerful motivating factor for the CABE NSW Under 19s as they steel themselves to play Queensland on Thursday night.
Coach and True Blue Andrew Ryan said the iconic Rugby League ground held a lot of appeal for his young stars, who are fully versed on the famous players that have trodden that turf.
“I know the boys are super excited about it and our coaching staff can’t wait either,” Ryan told nswrl.com.au.
He’s assembled an impressive True Blues line-up to help prepare the Under 19s: Brett Morris, who scored 23 tries in 18 games for the Kangaroos alongside his four for NSW; Shaun Timmins the 2004 Origin series field-goal hero; and Mark O’Meley, who played 10 games for NSW and won a NRL premiership with Ryan in 2004 at the Bulldogs.
“I’ve got Brett obviously as one of NSW’s best outside backs, as well as Shaun who played lock and five-eighth and then ‘Ogre’ who carved everyone up the middle,” Ryan said.
“So, it’s a good mix with those guys to pass on their knowledge.”
Leichhardt Oval also holds sentimentality for Ryan.
It was there in Round Seven, March 2000, that he scored his maiden NRL try in his first season with the Parramatta Eels against the Wests Tigers.
Ryan has the same eagerness to do well with his Under 19s outfit which contains a few NSW Under 16s and Australian Schoolboys players alongside some City and Country stars from last month.
“There’s good connections already as quite a few of the boys have been in and around those rep teams – also some of them have been around the junior comps through Parramatta and other pathways as well,” Ryan said.
“I’ve got players from the Tweed, the Central Coast and from Sydney and down south. It’s a really good mix actually.
“The easiest thing is how good the players have been coming together and enjoying each other’s company and spending time with one another.
“The most challenging is that because we haven’t seen a lot of these guys before, it’s getting to know them and how they tick and trying to find ways that they can shine individually but also gel as a team.”
Ryan is also thankful the men’s Under 19s State of Origin NSW v QLD game is back on the Rugby League calendar after COVID-19 disruptions for the past two seasons.
“That’s the great thing to finally give this age group of players an opportunity,” Ryan said.
“They’ve had such a stop-start few years with their competitions either being paused or cancelled altogether, or just in doubt week to week.
“So to come together and have this opportunity to play - with the Under 19s girls match too - on our own night of rep footy is a great opportunity for everyone.
“We hope we get some supporters out there because these players are the next generation of NSW talent and they are worth the trip to be there in person.”
The Women’s State of Origin Under 19s kicks off at 5.45pm, with the CABE Under 19s at 7.45pm.