Country Wary Of Depleted City
Their coach may be lamenting the players who aren't in Tamworth as opposed to those who are but Country Origin players insist their City counterparts boast a team brimming with talent and capable of spoiling their party.
Sunday's AAMI Country City fixture at Tamworth's Scully Park is all but a sell-out three days from the game with the Country team participating in a school blitz on Thursday morning before an opposed session against the North Tamworth Bears in the afternoon.
Representing Country for the first time, Ballina junior and Roosters forward Mitchell Aubusson says while he has great pride in pulling on the CRL jersey, he is wary of a City team determined to prove a point.
"I see a young team full of energy and they're going to be very tough," Aubusson said.
"I know in the media if someone says something of our team and we're under the pump you come out and you're fired up.
"We're expecting a spirited side and we have to match that enthusiasm but the players we have got here are experienced and will be ready for that."
Raiders fullback Jack Wighton is playing in his fourth consecutive Country-City fixture and says that the fact the likes of Ryan Matterson and Addin Fonua-Blake have played little NRL to date makes them a dangerous proposition.
"They're full of talented players and there'll be plenty of excitement," said Wighton.
"We won't know what we're going to get so it makes them all the more dangerous."
With a crowd of 7,000 proud country folk expected at Scully Park on Sunday, both Aubusson and Wighton spoke of the responsibility of making sure they go home happy.
Captain James Maloney and back-rower Boyd Cordner have already played Origin and Aubusson said they owe it to the people in country areas to put on a good display on Sunday.
"We're representing the Country Rugby League so there's no more motivation than that," said Aubusson, who played his 200th NRL game last weekend.
"We're all here together and we're representing New South Wales Country and to be in the country and among our people it's really important to us that we put in a good performance and I'm sure we will."
Wighton was a young spectator in the crowd when City belted Country 40-18 in Wade Park in Orange in 2009 and with the future of the concept in doubt said it remained an important part of his season.
"I love it, I can't get enough of it," said the 23-year-old Orange CYMS junior.
"I love coming back and representing the country and where I'm from, I reckon it's a great concept.
"All country people are pretty passionate and there's so much talent that does come from the country. When we get the games out to the communities they love it."
This article first appeared on NRL.com