Goulburn will get a glimpse of some of the up-and-coming rugby league talent from across NSW on Saturday, when the Monaro Under 23’s take on the Illawarra South Coast Dragons Under 23's in the first semi-final of the Country Championships.
The Monaro side features three Goulburn Bulldogs players, all of whom took the field in the first clash last weekend against Riverina, which resulted in a scrappy 38-10 win.
Tyson Greenwood, Nic Cornish, and Chris Hart all performed admirably against Riverina, and Monaro coach Ash Barnes was impressed with the three.
“They did really well,” Barnes said.
“Tyson did a great job with really good defence through the middle and he’s got really good footwork as well.
“Nic was really good, he copped a bump early in the game but he still did really well, his kicking was really good.
“Hardy was good, he went looking for a lot of work and actually did some work at fullback.
“He actually set up the last try of the game.”
Despite copping a nasty knock early in the game, Barnes said that Cornish was still in the team list for Saturday.
“Nic copped a bit of a cork on the weekend, so we just took him off [the field],” he said.
“He’s named in the team this weekend, so we’re expecting him to play.”
The match against Riverina, despite the one-sided scoreline, was not all smooth sailing for the Monaro side.
“We were quite dominant for the first part of the first half, then kept shooting ourselves in the foot with some unforced errors,” Barnes said.
“To Riverina’s credit they were able to capitalise on it.
“Our boys reset themselves at half time and came out and really ran with intent and were able to hold on to the ball a lot more.
“Riverina were a tough opponent, they really took it to us with the forwards and they had some fast outside backs.”
Looking ahead, Barnes said that he expected a similar challenge from Illawarra.
“They’re a classy side across the football field,” he said.
“They’ve got a big set of forwards and some classy halves with good kicking games.
“[The team is] looking forward to the really strong challenge that Illawarra are gonna pose.”
Greenwood agreed with Barnes’ assessment, and said that Illawarra’s superior structure will make them a sterner challenge than Riverina.
“Obviously Riverina, they had a fair few errors in them so we found ourselves stooping to their level,” he said.
“Illawarra are a bit more skilful team so they will definitely be another step up.
“If we do what we do well and eliminate their structure we’ll be right.”
The opportunity to play in front of a home crowd will be daunting, Greenwood admitted, but he said that having the crowd behind the team will help.
“It’s a good opportunity for the locals to see a bit of different footy,” he said.
“A little bit of added pressure, but not much. Playing in front of a home crowd will be good.”
The match between the Monaro Under 23’s and the Illawarra South Coast Dragons Under 23’s will take place from 12:10pm on Saturday May 19 at the Goulburn Workers Arena.