Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues assistant coach Paul McGregor believes it won’t be too long before the next generation of NSW stars make the jump to the State of Origin arena after taking part in a Future Blues camp this weekend.
McGregor led the camp of 30 players with fellow True Blues Danny Buderus, Mark O’Meley, Immortal Andrew Johns, former NSW captain Boyd Cordner, and newly-appointed U19s coach Andrew Ryan.
The True Blues later took part in a positional training session for the Harvey Norman NSW Sky Blues and Harvey Norman NSW Under 19s Women’s squads.
“It’s important to really instil – before the season starts – where these players are in the game,” McGregor said of the benefits of having the camp six months out from Origin.
“This gives them a real goal that they’re not far away. They just have to do the right things by their team, their club, themselves and show discipline consistently through that.
“Discipline is a very hard thing for a young man because there’s many distractions out there. But if they stay true to themselves and their clubs, they’ll get the reward because the talent is there.”
Cordner also relished the chance to see the next generation of Blues players up close.
“It’s been proven in the past, and ‘Freddy’ has done countless hours and work with the Junior Reps and Blues pathways, that the fruits of all that definitely come,” Cordner said.
“It all starts here with these emerging players having an opportunity to work and learn off Origin greats like Danny Buderus, Andrew Johns and Paul McGregor.
“All these guys are teaching the younger blokes what this jersey is all about and what camp is all about too.
“It’s a young man’s game now so it won’t be long before they get a jersey too.
“The more they can learn about it, about the systems around Origin, when they transition it will be easier as they have already started building the relationships.”
McGregor liked what he saw among the 2022 Future Blues, including Haumole Olakau’atu and Jason Saab (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles), Tyrell Sloan (St George Illawara Dragons), and Joseph Suaalii (Sydney Roosters).
He remembers how Penrith pair, Brian To’o and Liam Martin, were part of the 2021 Future Blues squad and went on to play State of Origin the same year.
“They have the really good characteristics of future NSW players – their attention to what was explained to them or taking up the lessons from Blues players speaking to them,” he said of incumbents like Nathan Cleary and Tom Trbojevic coming in to address the group.
“The emerging players were really interested in listening and learning and taking that forward into their next steps in footy.
“They are four weeks deep into a pre-season, so they’re fatigued but they showed none of that.
“They wanted to be here; they wanted to be the ones on the lips of people making the decisions; and they certainly did all the right things that NSW wants of them.”
In tandem with the Future Blues, McGregor and his coaching team put the Harvey Norman Sky Blues and the Women’s Under 19s players through skills, positional training, and an opposed session.
“It’s really enjoyable to see the enthusiasm all the women show and display in all their actions,” McGregor said.
“They’re always smiling but very intent in what they do, but they just have fun. And that’s the most important part. We all began playing the game, most of us at a very young age, because we wanted the comradeship and the fun.
“As the journey gets more professional, you sometimes lose that. But the girls come out and show it and that’s really refreshing.”
Cordner had nothing but praise after his first session as a women’s coach.
“I’m extremely impressed,” he said.
“I got to speak to the girls and they’re all willing to learn even the more experienced ones like Kezie Apps and Holli Wheeler.
“It was great seeing the younger ones look up to them because they’re in good hands. The skill level as well is formidable. The women’s game has come a long way the past few years.”