A trio of Group 16 juniors featured in the CRL under 18s Country side in a tour of New Zealand last week.
Merimbula-Pambula duo Kyle Shepherdson and Matthew Moon partnered up with Narooma’s Matt Parsons to form a hard-running spine for the outfit.
All three are fleet-footed and agile back rowers with the two Bulldogs known for their combinations on the left flanks and often back up for first grade duties after serving their competition-leading under 18s outfit.
The NSW Country squad contested two games against the West Coast and Cantebury, but claimed comfortable wins in both outings.
“Yeah the tour was great, easily the best week I've ever had,” Shepherdson said.
“It was Moony and my first time overseas, so we were stoked, we had a few afternoons off so we got to go check out the city.”
Even the view from the team bus had the group in awe.
“The scenes on the bus ride from Christchurch to greymouth and back were unbelievable,” Moon added. “I've never seen anything like it and neither had a lot of the boys so we all loved it.”
The pair agreed the competition was solid, but similar to what they face in first grade.
“The competition was fairly tough, Canterbury had some big boys, who hit hard, but it was sorta like playing first grade here,” Shepherdson said.
“The quality of footy was pretty high, the opposition were at a first grade level down home, but our team was just too strong,” Moon added.
All three Group 16 players commended their coach for the tour, saying he was “professional and footy oriented”.
So when it came time to play, he was down to business and the boys all took stock of what he was saying.
“The coach was really strong on focusing on footy when it was game time, which we all took onboard,” Moon said.
“The coaching staff were superb,” Shepherdson added.
The trio gelled well with the squad and Moon said it was a key factor in their dominant play, but also led to great off-field antics and camaraderie.
“We all got the structure and whatnot down very quick and you could tell out on the field,” he said.
“We all got on so well some of the boys over there said it was the closest rep team they have ever been a part of – we had heaps of down time just hanging out.”
Shepherdson – who was bench-bound for the opening round with an ankle injury - echoed the sentiment, saying the “boys were hilarious and it made the trip awesome”.
“We ended up playing paintball the day before one game and I'm pretty sure some of the boys wish they hadn't,” he adds with a laugh.
The trio are now looking to add their experience in regular club games as Group 16 competition nears finals time.