Donning a blue footy jumper is a familiar action for both Brad Buckley and Jesse Thompson, who play together for the under-15 Queanbeyan United Blues. But as a part of their recent selection in the Greater Southern Regional Combined High School’s squad, the pair will be looking to impress selectors and secure a slightly different blue jumper as members of the under-15 NSW rugby league squad.
The NSW State Trials run from Monday, May 30, to Wednesday, June 1, and involves the best footballers from each of the zones converging upon Toronto in Lake Macquarie, where they will face up against one another in their respective age groups of under-15s and under-18s in their quest to earn state selection and regional bragging rights.
Buckley, Thompson, and Karabar High School student Adam Barlow are set to come up against their Northern, Western, and Sydney Gold counterparts over the three-day competition and they feel their prospects are strong.
“We’re a really strong team,” Thompson said.
“We have some really good players from the Illawarra region and from the other regions we have picked up from.
“There are three kids from the Riverina that made it and they’re really strong players, so we stand a good chance up there in Toronto.”
“Just getting up there for something new is going to be exciting,” Buckley said.
“Playing with a lot of new boys will be good too.”
Outside of school representation honours, both Buckley and Thompson have garnered the attention of the Canberra Raiders, with Buckley being selected for the Elite Pathway Program following his South Coast side’s brutal beating of the Riverina in a school-based game a few weeks ago. While Thompson - who was considering quitting the game due to injury - received a late call up to the under-16 Raiders side that made it to the finals of the Harold Matthews Cup in Sydney.
“I broke my shoulder last year and I was sort of contemplating whether or not to go back because it was pretty bad,” Thompson said.
“I broke the growth plate in my right shoulder and now it’s all out of whack down the right, but I’m working on it at the moment with the coaches at the Raiders.
“Last year, I thought I’d finish out the season and I ended up getting spotted by the Raiders for the Harold Matthews squad so I came back.”
The Southern Zone CHS squad will play their first game against Northern at 8.45am on Monday, May 30, their second against Western at 9.45am on Tuesday, May 31, and their third against Sydney Gold at 9.20am on Wednesday, June 1.