By Jack Clifton
The St George Illawarra Dragons Junior Representative teams went head-to-head in their annual pre-season inter-club trial at Ron Costello Park, Shellharbour on Saturday.
The St George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers respective Harold Matthews Cup (U16) and SG Ball Cup (U18) teams met in a series of trials in warm and sunny conditions under the observation of Club selectors.
The trialists played each game at a ferocious pace and dealt with the conditions very well as temperatures peaked at 28 degrees during parts of the day.
There was a large and committed crowd in attendance, enhancing the atmosphere for the players throughout each match.
A highlight of the day was the closeness of the matches – all concluded with a scoreline difference of only two or less tries.
Credit has to go to the coaches for getting their teams prepared in such a manner, and for the players in providing a high level of skill and determination so early in the new Rugby League season.
In each of the three Harold Matthews Cup thirds there were some enterprising tries scored.
"I was pretty happy with our overall performance," said Dragons Harold Matthews Coach Graeme Wynn commented after the match.
"Our ruck defence needs work, as do a few other things within our game, but we'll evaluate that and work on it at training.
"It was nice to have a hit out and the commitment of the young guys was nice to see, especially with it being so hot today – they weren't the easiest conditions to play in."
Wynn’s counterpart at the Steelers, Adam Blake, was in agreement with the expressed sentiments.
"The trials were competitive today, though we still have lots to work on," said Blake.
"Our first up contact needs to improve, as does our line speed which dropped off in the latter part of the matches.
"We need to stick to our more closely to our structures and will work on rectifying these things at training.
"Nonetheless, a pleasing first up hit out."
The SG Ball teams also kept their games extremely close, with little between the two teams at the end of the day.
Both sides displayed a gritty, solid defence, especially on their own goal line, a feature that pleased both coaches Brad Liggins (St George) and Shane Millard (Illawarra).
However a stand out play of the afternoon involved a wonderful Steelers team try where the ball went through four sets of hands and traveled 60 metres downfield to end in a try to their fullback Steven Marsters.
Next weekend’s trials see the Dragons travel to Narrabeen to play the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at 10.30am (Harold Matthews Cup) and 12.00pm (SG Ball Cup).
The Steelers will complete their annual trek to Goulburn to take on the Canberra Raiders at 10.30am and 12.15pm respectively.
All four Junior Representative coaches should be very close to announcing their final teams for 2016 following next weekend’s trials.