Group 11 coach Terry Fahey has paid Tom Clyburn the ultimate compliment, declaring the Parkes Spacemen’s halfback the right kind of player to shut down Group 9’s Craig Field in tomorrow’s Toyota Centenary Group Challenge final at Cootamundra.
There’s no doubt it will be the biggest challenge of Clyburn’s short football career when he lines up against Field, a veteran of 183 NRL matches, but Fahey and the Group 11 selectors have shown faith in the talented 19-year-old.
Clyburn has been the revelation of the tournament for Group 11, leading a vastly more experienced group of players through the tournament and his rugged tenacity, while at times a problem, is something Fahey admires.
“Tommy’s biggest problem is that he probably tries too hard sometimes but that is the kind of player you want, someone that will have a go,” Fahey said.
“I have no doubt he’ll handle the job on Craig Field because he doesn’t seem to worry about who he’s playing against, he just tries to do his job well.
“It’s a big ask to put a young kid on a guy with so much NRL experience but I think he is the right guy for the job.
“He’s got good guys around him like Darren Jackson and Peter Ford. Both of those guys can take a bit of pressure off him.”
Wagga Brothers captain-coach Field and another former NRL player, his Brethren team-mate Grant Wooden, provide the obvious dangers for Group 11 in tomorrow’s final.
But Fahey will use previous experience against Group 9 in a trial as well as video from their win against Castlereagh Cup a fortnight ago to devise a gameplan to nullify the twin threats.
“Wooden gives them their go-forward and ‘Fieldsy’ picks out the weaknesses,” Fahey said.
“I imagine it will be wet down there so we will try and hit Wooden around the legs, put him on his back and make him work. We’ll try and make him make a few tackles as well.
“Anyone can run the ball and just stand there and offload or play the ball, but if we can make him work and force them to burn a couple of interchanges with him then that could work to our advantage.
“But they wouldn’t be in the final if they didn’t have a good side so I imagine it will be a good, tight tussle.”
Group 11 side :
1 Chris Daley (Dubbo Macquarie); 2 Epa Navale (Dubbo CYMS); 3 Nathan Smith (Wellington); 4 Shane Martin (Cobar); 5 Damien Smith (Nyngan); 6 Mick Clarke (Narromine); 7 Tom Clyburn (Parkes); 8 Steve Lyons (Cobar); 9 Darren Jackson (c, Macquarie); 10 Adam Betts (Cobar); 11 David Robinson (Forbes); 12 Ash Conn (Macquarie); 13 Peter Ford (Cobar).
Interchange: 14 Luke Jenkins (CYMS); 15 Hamani Lavaka (Parkes); 16 Mick Ryan (Wellington); 17 Zac Rennick (Macquarie); 18 Darren Keane (Forbes).
Coach: Terry Fahey.