Ben Woolf’s Gold Training under-20s side will field ten newcomers to last year’s squad when they open the season against Newcastle Knights tomorrow, with the late withdrawals of fullback Brayden McGrady (ankle) and centre Greg Leleisiuao (finger).
That means Ngangarra Barker (fullback) and Junior Taefu (centre) come into the side, joining winger Phillip Sami, halves Josh Rogers and Josh Fauid, hooker Jordan Scott and interchange forwards Ethan Roberts and Max King in making their NYC debuts. The club newcomers are Morgan Boyle (Canberra) and Kurt Bernard (Melbourne) who are seasoned under-20s players.
It’s unfortunate that McGrady and Leleisiuao join Shane Wright (shoulder) in the stands tomorrow and it creates a bit of uncertainty around how the inexperienced side will perform, yet it is an exciting time for these youngsters and emphasises how much change there has been in the playing personnel with eight newcomers in the NRL side also.
The team certainly contains more size than the previous two seasons with Jed Cartwright, at 105kg, switching from centre to second row and newcomers Kurt Bernard (120kg) and Morgan Boyle (111kg).
“We have both our halves, hooker and fullback on debut so it’s a new ‘spine’ but it’s great that we have some exciting prospects in the team as well,” said coach Woolf.
“And we have a lot of size and experience in the pack and some strike-power out wide, so it will be good to see how we handle the occasion.
“We have Brian Kelly, Jed Cartwright, Morgan Boyle and Kurt Bernard coming back from training with the NRL squad in the pre-season but they have had limited time to work on combinations, so there will be a lot of improvement on what we do on Sunday.”
Kelly (pictured) will be a key man out wide with Leleisiuao now sidelined, with Tyronne Roberts-Davis, an Australian Schoolboy last season, another to watch.
The team is: Ngangarra Barker, Phillip Sami, Junior Taefu, Brian Kelly, Tyronne Roberts-Davis, Josh Rogers, Josh Fauid, Kurt Bernard, Jordan Scott, Nathan Watts, Morgan Boyle, Jed Cartwright, Sam Swift. Interchange: Ethan Roberts, Max King, Jerome Veve, Simione Fatafahi.