Emerging Rebels player Connor Kirkwood said he was looking forward to his positional shift as the Newcastle under 20s head south of the state border for this weekend’s representative fixture.
After playing most of the 2018 season in the halves for Cessnock’s first grade side, Kirkwood will line-up in the centres when the Rebels clash with Victoria’s under-20 trialists south-east of Melbourne in Cranbourne on Saturday.
“I’m playing in the centres this weekend and I’m looking forward to it,” Kirkwood told the Newcastle Herald.
“I like running the ball a bit more. I’m probably a bit more of a ball runner than a ball player anyway.”
Despite interest elsewhere locally Kirkwood has signed to play club footy under incoming Cessnock coach Todd Edwards next year, but knows a good performance in the end-of-year encounter at Casey Fields could lead to other offers.
“We’ve been told there will be scouts down there,” he said. “It would be good to be picked up by someone. I’ll just put my best foot forward and see what happens.”
Extra eyes will be on the game with Victoria’s 26 players vying for a spot in the Thunderbolts squad, which will join the NSW Rugby League run Jersey Flegg competition in 2019. Victoria will also take part in SG Ball (under 18s) and Harold Matthews (under 16s) next year.
Emerging Rebels coach Adam Bettridge cited the example of Mitch Garbutt, who was signed by NRL club the Melbourne Storm after his performance for Wests in the 2011 Newcastle Rugby League grand final.
“There’s no guarantees that anyone will get picked up, but you never know what might happen,” Bettridge said.
“You’ve only got to look at Mitch Garbutt from the Newcastle Rugby League grand final a few years ago.”
“It’s about getting these kids an opportunity they might not otherwise get,” Bettridge, who will be replaced by assistant Adam Hall next season, said.
The Emerging Rebels include several first grade players such as 2018 rookie of the year Harry O’Brien, the competition’s leading try scorer Lachlan Walmsley and Lakes grand finalist Ben Talty.
The touring party, including referees Cameron Smith and Jake Eyb, flies out of Newcastle on Friday and returns on Sunday. Visiting the MCG and Storm headquarters are on the agenda.
EMERGING REBELS: Reid Alchin (c), Harry O'Brien, Conner Kirkwood, Carl Randall, Jye Bieman-King, Emmanuel Sithole, Jeremy Gibson, Kye Hopwood, Jordan Mitchell, Cody Bryant, John Toleafoa, Jack Jordan, Alifeleti Mateo, Matthew Moon, Lachlan Bent, Jack Cameron, Lachlan Walmsley, Ryan Jones, Jack Bennett, Benjamin Talty.
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