PLAYERS with a combined 51 Origin caps and 113 international appearances are set to showcase their talent. And Goulburn league fans will be inches from the action.
Minor premiers the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs and 2012 semi-finalists the Canberra Raiders are set to unleash their big boppers and speedsters on the turf at Goulburn’s Workers Arena.
Both clubs will use the occasion to fine tune their games on the cusp of the NRL season.
Excitement machine Ben Barba goes head-to-head with Origin fullback Josh Dugan. Maroons enforcer David Shillington eyes off Bulldogs giant Sam Kasiano.
New South Wales centre Josh Morris hopes to outgun prolific try scorer Blake Ferguson.
And then there’s the rest.
Origin players Michael Ennis, Brett White, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Shaun Berrigan, Tony Williams, Steve Turner and David Stagg will feature. So too will internationals James Graham, Greg Eastwood, Frank Pritchard, Bryson Goodwin, Sam Perrett, Krisnan Inu and Dene Halatua.
Goulburn league product Jarrod Croker, the NRL’s leading pointscorer in 2012, won’t play in his home town. Spectators, however, will have at least one local to get behind.
Under 20s skipper Mitch Cornish has lined up for the Raiders in both trials thus far.
He’s again likely to feature on Saturday.
As will Stockmen juniors Joe and Michael Picker.
“For local kids with an ambition, this can give them the motivation to think ‘I can do it’,” Workers Bulldogs president Dale Godber says.
“They can look up to these local guys.
Maybe, instead of trying to become a Darren Lockyer they might want to become a Mitch Cornish.”
Previous trials at the ground, when the Raiders hosted Penrith in 1999 and the Tigers in ’98, lured crowds around the 5000 mark.
Godber said organisers had set their sights on again reaching that figure.
In preparation, they’ve installed added seating at the ground, hired a truck with 40 attached porter loos and stocked the canteens with ample beer and soft drink.
Last month the club installed floodlights worth $70,000 and new goal posts to value of $6000.
Catering, in the form of a barbecue, has been outsourced to the Rotary Club.
Parking will be available on the vacant land in between Geissler Motors and the Hockey Centre.
The right to host the trial has been a fair investment, Godber says. On top of supplying tickets to the families of both teams, the Workers Bulldogs are required to pay for teams’ accommodation, their transport, energy and rehydration drinks and a series of specially prepared meals.
Now Godber hopes the outlay pays dividends.
“It’s cost us in the vicinity of $25,000 to $30,000 to hold this,” he said.
“It’ll money well spent. If we get 5000 in there, it’ll be shoulder to shoulder. That will be great publicity for the game.”
The Bulldogs arrive in Goulburn on Friday.
They’ll finalise preparations for the match with a training session at Workers Arena at 3pm, after which they’ll sign autographs.
Momentum builds ahead of the trial with a Men of League fundraising dinner at the Workers Club on Friday.
The entire Bulldogs squad, along with coaches and trainers, will attend.
It’s understood the Raiders will send around 10 representatives along.
Godber said already in excess of 200 people had booked for the Men of League dinner, while some 3500 tickets to the match are set to be sold by Friday.
Tickets to the match, $20 for adults, are available at the Workers Club or at the gate on gameday.
“We’re encouraging people to get their tickets in advance to avoid disappointment,” Godber said.
“There’s a big chance we’ll sell out.
Anything over the 5000 mark, we’ll classify as a sell out.”