Just like its Harold Matthews counterpart, the Parramatta and Penrith game screams match of the round and you would think this match could have ramifications on final spots even though it is the first game of a nine game season.
Both sides ooze class across the park. Penrith are captained by outstanding front-rower Oliver Clark and he is well supported by a team with players like Robert Jennings, Soni Luke and Dylan Faud. After the SG Ball season it is becoming more and more common to see players step straight up to Holden Cup and you would think a few of the names we have mentioned will do the same this season.
When looking at Parramatta coach Mark Mahoney’s side it is amazing to see how much depth he has at his disposal. Michael Doolan, a player who last year played NSW Indigenous U16s, NSW Under 16s, won back-to-back Harold Matthews titles and back-to-back National tiles, as well as a host of schoolboy awards, is forced to start off the bench.
The Eels will be steered around the park by second year SG Ball halfback Jason Vidal and led in the forwards by NSW Under 18s representative Tyrell Fuimaono. Nifo Sevi keeps Harold Matthews premiership captain Joey Tramontana on the bench with Bevan French getting the nod as the starting custodian ahead of Anthony Layourn.
The SG Ball match at TG Milner featuring Balmain and North Sydney will also feature two new generations of families whose names are synonymous with their respective clubs. Bayle Sironen (Balmain) and Nelson Florimo (North Sydney) will both line-up with plenty to prove. Sironen narrowly missed NSW Under 16 selection last year and Florimo will be out to restore the pride his father instilled in the famous red and black jersey.
If you are heading out to TG Milner we suggest you cast your eye across North Sydney centre John Olive. Our spies tell us he has already been snapped up by and NRL club for Holden Cup duties and is a star of the future.
The next match we think will get our junior rep fans excited is the Bulldogs and Raiders clash at Belmore. When ringing around our sources we kept getting one solid theme. People rate this year’s Raiders SG Ball team.
At a quick glance, Chris Hart, Cleveland McGhie, Jack Williams and Lachlan Croker all return for their second year in Peter Marrapodi’s backline. The forwards, however, are experiencing SG Ball footy for the first time after players like Luke Bateman, Tevita Pangai and Jarred McIllwrick have graduated to Holden Cup.
The Bulldogs have plenty of spark as well and one player we reckon is worth a look is Jayden Okunbor. Okunbor has a great story behind him, his parents are of African heritage, he captained the Harold Matthews side last year and he is a dead-ringer for Jamal Idris (not just in looks, but in size and speed).
Okunbor’s back-row partner is the experienced Avia Minute. Minute, like his older brother David, is tough, uncompromising and a leader in defence. This game has plenty to offer and those lucky enough to be at Belmore won’t be disappointed.
In other matches, the NSWRL Match Centre will be covering the Shire derby between Cronulla and St George from 11.30am while at the same time at Brookvale, South Sydney and Manly line-up against each other.
At 1.30pm the Illawarra Steelers make the long trip up to Morry Breen Oval to take on the Central Coast Centurions before a star-studded Sydney Roosters side, including Sonny-Bill Williams, take on the Newcastle Knights VB NSW Cup side in a trial.
Down in the garden state, Melbourne Storm host the Roosters who have had a change in coach from Mark Riddell to Anthony Barnes while the West Coast Pirates come across the Nullarbor for the first time to take on the Western Sydney Academy at St Marys Stadium.
The SG Ball round concludes when two traditional powerhouses, the Newcastle Knights and Western Suburbs Magpies square off at Cessnock Sports Ground at 5.30pm.