As excitement builds for the annual Country v City match on Sunday at Wagga Wagga, James McManus can’t wait to be a part of representative football again.
“Every representative jersey you get is an honour and you have to make the most of the opportunity,” McManus said.
The Country representative experience is nothing new for the 29-year-old.
The skillful winger has donned the maroon and yellow jersey in 2009, 2012 and 2014 with representative honours flowing on with his selection to play with NSW Origin after each Country Origin appearance.
Since joining Country Camp at the start of the week, the side has begun preparations for the high intensity match to be held at McDonald’s Park in the regional centre of Wagga Wagga.
So far he says team cohesion and training sessions have been high quality.
“It’s been good. A lot of us have known each other and played alongside each other at various stages of the last few years so it’s come together really well,” he said.
“Everyone is getting along really well. It’s an enjoyable camp the Country camp."
The Country line-up is a mixture of fresh, young talent and more experienced heads.
“I’m a bit of the old man in the side at the moment,” he said.
The Knights are well represented with almost a quarter of the team selected originating from Newcastle.
Knights prop Kade Snowden, second rower Tariq Sims and winger Akuila Uate will also feature in Sunday's match. Jarrod Mullen was also selected but was forced to withdraw at the beginning of the week due to injury.
McManus has relished the chance to share the experience with his Newcastle teammates.
“I love rooming with Aku. We have roomed together on the Country camp a few times. It’s always good fun,” he said.
“It’s great to see Tariq in the side and for (Kade) Snowy to be back in, it’s good to be around guys like that.”
With the City v Country match the precursor to State of Origin selection, McManus expects the stakes to be high for the match up against their City counterparts.
“I think it will be a good contest. It’s one of those games where there is opportunity at the end of it,” he said.
“It’s a good opportunity to represent the country. Rugby league is very important to the country community.
"It’s good we get to represent them and to also bring NRL players to the country.
“They don’t often get to experience that sort of thing.”
In the lead up to Sunday, the team has taken part in a number of community activities which included attending the Trent Barrett Cup in Griffith where the high profile NRL stars mixed it up with the locals.
“There were lots of games being played and lots of kids there. They were all excited to be a part of that day and to have NRL players come out to see them,” he said.
“It’s something that I’ll never forget.”
McManus believes country people are unique and enjoys playing alongside teammates who originate from country towns as well as the chance the week allows to visit rural and regional communities.
“I think country people are polite, down to earth and easy to talk to,” he said.
“It makes for good flow and cohesion and it’s almost instant.”
“It’s been like that every time I’ve played for country.”