PREDICTABLY, NSW Country under 16s swept both games of its tour to Samoa to return from the Pacific Island nation undefeated.
What was less predictable was the experience the boys – including St John’s Dubbo junior Matt Burton and fellow Western Rams guns Tyrone Harrison (Orange CYMS), Joey Hobby (Blayney), Brock Naden (Wellington Cowboys) and Charlie Staines (Forbes) – took away from their first representative tour.
An eye opening tour for the entire touring party, the second of the NSW Country side’s clashes was in the lead-up to the first international clash in Samoa, between the hosts and Fiji, while also celebrating 30 years of rugby league on the island.
They trained, and enjoyed an opposed session, with seasoned NRL players – including Fiji skipper and Wests Tigers dynamo Kevin Naiqama – during the tour as well.
“It’s obviously pleasing to see our under 16s claim victories...but the scoreline is secondary to the experiences that our players have had whilst being on tour,” CRL’s Adam Kidd said.
“For many of our players, it was their first time travelling overseas and to have the opportunity to experience another culture, train with the Fiji Bati and play in the curtain raiser to the very first test match to be played in Samoa is something they’ll never forget.”
The NSW Country boys accounted for Samoa under 16s 46-10 in their second game, after knocking off Savaii Residents, where they became the first touring side to play in Savaii.
“They performed very well against two strong Samoan sides and the final score line in both matches was certainly not a reflection on the physicality of the contests,” Kidd continued.
“You only have to ask the players how their bodies were feeling afterwards to know how tough their opposition were.”
Kidd added development of rugby league in the Pacific Islands was a key component of the tour, as it was when the 18s Country side toured WA in July.
“A key component of this tour was assisting with the development of rugby league in the Pacific Islands and I’m certain that the Samoan sides would have taken quite a bit away from the way that our boys play the game and the skills they displayed,” he said.
“The under 16s also had the opportunity to pass on their knowledge to the Samoan women’s teams, taking them through a training session and teaching them some warm-up drills and skills based training.
“The players represented their regions, hometowns and families with distinction and we hope to see many of them again next year in the Country under 18s.”