Under 10 boys (Pool E)
THE key to Port Macquarie featuring in the under-10 boys finals could be something quite as simple as scoring a few more tries.
They performed well at Taree at the Northern Eagles championships, but coach Adam Atkins said a few draws along the way ultimately cost them.
An improved playing roster over the last couple of months has the coach confident of achieving a quarter-final result despite being drawn in the same pool as Parramatta and Cronulla.
He will look to talented quartet Zac Yule, Koby Atkins, Lewis Shipway and captain Jesse Andrews to play vital roles.
“Jesse is one of our older players and he’ll captain the side and Koby, Lewis and Zac will also be important for us,” Atkins said.
Port Macquarie will benefit from an easy day one schedule where they will only play two games before they have a four-game day on Saturday.
“Saturday will be an important day for us,” the coach said.
Under 12 boys (Pool A)
DEFENSIVELY Port Macquarie under-12 boys coach Warren Lorger believes his side will have an advantage this weekend.
While most coaches at junior level focus on scoring tries rather than stopping them, Lorger has drilled into his side that it is just as important to stop a try as it is to score one.
“All the kids just want to score tries,” he said.
“But I’ve told the kids it’s no good scoring 10 tries if you’re going to concede 11.”
Lorger’s group made the quarter-finals as under-10s two years ago and he hopes they can continue that success up an age group.
“These sorts of things go in cycles,” he said.
“When this group last played together they got through to the Sunday and I believe they’re a better side this year than they were then.
“I’m pretty confident they’re ready to go and they’ll be there again on Sunday.”
Port Macquarie have been drawn alongside Parramatta, Canterbury and Ryde Eastwood and will start their campaign first-up against Mudgee on Friday.
“Friday is going to be a really long day from the boys where it’ll start at 8am and finish at 5.30pm,” he said.
Under-14 boys (Pool C)
PORT Macquarie under-14 assistant coach Aaron Shearman admits his side faces an uphill task to qualify for the NSW Junior State Cup finals this year.
With clubs such as Easts Roosters, Western Suburbs and the Northern Beaches all appearing in their pool, he believes a final 16 finish would be seen as an over-achievement.
“The boys have a really tough draw,” he said.
“Two or three of the Sydney sides we have drawn have either won it or gone close over the last couple of years.”
While Shearman knows it will be a challenge to get out of their pool, he was confident they had done “as much as we can”.
“Ultimately if we can make the quarter-finals we’ve had a really good weekend.”
He didn’t want to single any specific players out for mention, indicating the balance of the side was what separated them from the rest.
“There’s probably seven or eight or the boys who are more than capable of contributing,” he said.
Under-16 boys (Pool B)
PORT Macquarie under-16 boys coach Brendan Prince acknowledges his side has drawn the short straw.
After losing in the final of the Northern Eagles championships, Port Macquarie have been drawn in the same pool as Wagga Wagga, Beresfield and Manly.
Wagga Wagga won the Southern Suns championship while Beresfield won the Hunter equivalent and Manly are traditionally always strong.
Prince knows his side faces an uphill task to make the finals, but he remains confident they can navigate their way through.
“I think we’ll get out of the pool,” he said.
“We’ve drawn Manly first up which will be a yardstick and we’re looking to get away with a surprise victory over them and then Beresfield, Wagga and us will fight it out for the other two spots.”
The performances of Cody Fisher, Cooper Gallagher and Kieren Gainsford will be important to Port Macquarie’s success.
“Cody Fisher is probably one of - if not the best - 16 or under touch player getting around Port Macquarie or in the Northern Eagles region,” Prince said.
“Cooper Gallagher has stepped up a lot for us this year and Kieren Gainsford as well.
“They’ve all been playing in the men’s competition for a couple of seasons now and you can really see it in their games that it’s made them better players.”
Prince has seen the team’s progression from under-14s through to the under-16 ranks.
“It’s a big difference to where they were at two years ago and they’re playing like a team that has played together before too,” he said.
Under-18 boys (Pool C)
PETER Vincent believes his under-18 boys side has the structure and players to progress deep into the NSW Junior State Cup.
Consistency, however, could be their biggest problem.
“If we play to our ability we’ll get through to the last 16,” Vincent said of his team’s ambitions this weekend.
Port Macquarie have been drawn alongside Penrith and Wollongong in a pool that isn’t quite as difficult as their under-16 counterparts, but still a tough one to emerge from.
“We made the quarter-finals last year and were knocked out by Newcastle who went on to win it,” he said.
“The pools are evenly matched, but we have the structure and the players to progress well into the tournament.”
Vincent knows luck will also play a significant role.
“Sometimes it is all about luck and who you get from the other pool once everyone crosses over,” he said.
“You only have to drop your guard a fraction and anyone can beat anyone.”
Vincent said the under-18 side has a different roster to last year, but would still be just as talented.
“We’ve bought in about five or six new blokes who will be around again next year, but we’ve also lost a couple to rugby league commitments,” he said.
Tyrell Scott, Josh Dwyer, Brent Nixon and Hudson McCarron will lead the way in attack, but Vincent said there were other players who would also get the team into good positions on the field.
“We have other players who can pull things out of their hat and if they play to their ability I’ll be happy,” he said.