Mounties v Newcastle Knights
Date: Saturday, June 2
Venue: Aubrey Keech Reserve
1. Matt Cooper, 2. Lachlan Farr, 3. Justin Worley, 4. Ofa Manuofetoa, 5. Elijah Rasiga, 6. Tex Hoy, 7. Nash Birch, 8. Matt Croker, 9. Matthew Moon, 10. Jirah Momoisea, 11. Kurtis Dark, 12. Brandon Russell, 13. Tevita Alifa. Interchange. 14. Ben Talty, 15. Joe Bromage, 16. Luke Huth, 17. Henry-Siriah Fuimaono.
The Newcastle Knights Jersey Flegg side may proudly be sitting at the top of the ladder, but coach Todd Lowrie admits it's been difficult with recent disruptions to his squad.
Changes due to injury and form at NRL level have filtered down to the Under 20s. Players including influential forward Beau Fermor, who has recorded the second most tries in the competition so far this season, has been promoted to ISP along with teammates Matt Cooper, Brayden Musgrove and Pasami Saulo on several occasions.
"It's been quite difficult for us, with the disruptions the NRL has had, because that affects everybody in the Club," Lowrie explained.
"It all filters down and we are the last of the three teams that know about it, so we get affected."
But the pleasing thing for the Under 20s coach is the resilience and determination his men have shown, whoever is in the side, to maintain their superb winning record of nine from ten matches.
"The way the guys have been playing and continuing to win and do what they do, has been a real credit to them over the last couple of weeks," Lowrie added.
"We have still managed to get a couple of wins purely through their hard work and it is a reward for them for the work that we're doing.
"The new guys that are coming in to the team, they're certainly doing a good job and allowed us to get some wins up."
Some of the new faces have include Elijah Rasiga who made his debut in the 20s last week and scored a try and is again in the starting line-up.
"He went well for us last week, he came down from Armidale in the off-season on a train and trial and he went really well," said the Jersey Flegg coach.
"He is training really hard and certainly deserves his opportunity and to see him go well was really good and has held his spot this week."
Another new halves pairing of Tex Hoy and Nash Birch has also impressed Lowrie, with Hayden Loughrey getting his chance in ISP.
"They went well, Tex and Nash know each other quite well and they've played a lot of footy together, so knowing each other quite well makes it a little bit easier," Lowrie commented.
"I thought Tex was the best player on the field on the weekend and Nash has been there for us all year and takes on a bit more responsibility in guiding the team around."
The bench has also been stacked with a few good inclusions, who come back from injury, including Luke Huth and Henry-Siriah Fuimaono.
"Henry has been out for about six weeks, had a game for Maitland on the weekend, and went really well so he comes back in," Lowrie said.
"Luke Huth has been injured as well, and in our break got a knee injury, so has been out for a couple of weeks so it's his first game back.
"It's good to have Luke and Henry back because they have played a lot for us and they have been guys that have brought a lot to the team."
The Knights are yet to play the Mounties this year and don't know too much about what to expect on Saturday but Lowrie maintains being a Canberra feeder team, they'll be stacked with big bodies.
"They are quite big through the middle," he said.
"A Central Coast guy Brendon O'Hagan is playing in the halves for them, he has been going quite well, and has found himself a new home there.
"We know how dangerous he is, so he'll be one we'll be watching out for." For all Knights news and info, subscribe to Enews here.
Mounties v Newcastle Knights