Newly-appointed Rebels coach Aaron Watts is hoping club combinations will hold the senior representative side in good stead when it tackles the inaugural 2021 Tri Series.
The Newcastle Rugby League-based line-up, announced during the week, will face Illawarra and Canberra over a two-month period to uncover the most dominant country region.
And, even with so much talent at their disposal in the Hunter, selectors quickly turned to the local powerhouses Cessnock Goannas and Maitland Pickers to provide the bulk of the squad.
Cessnock, the 2020 Real NRL premiers, boasts a total of eight reps – AJ Davis, Billy Gilbert, Connor Kirkwood, Denzel Burns, Gerome Burns, Robert Tuliatu, Tyrone Roberts-Davis and Wyatt Shaw, while Maitland, who captured the 2020 President’s Cup crown, also supplied Cooper Jenkins, James Taylor, Jayden Butterfield and Matt Soper-Lawler to the 20-man outfit.
“Team dynamics was definitely discussed, it’s a big thing when selecting these types of sides,” Watts said.
“We’ve got a six, seven and nine from the Goannas – that will play a real key role to what we need to do.
“They’ve been training all off-season, and the start of this year, together so that’ll only help us.
“But, the selectors have done a good job.
“With the way the comp’s gone so far, it’s a team based on results.
“I think that’s the fairest way to pick it – it’s a form side.
“And, that’s what we need to be.
“There’s no point picking people who are battling each week.
“It’s a really good nucleus of a team.
“The guys we’ve named deserve to be there.”
Watts admitted he was excited to see how the Rebels fared alongside their counterparts on the South Coast and ACT.
“At the moment, I have a limited idea of what we’re up against,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.
“I’ve watched a fair few of the games – just on BarTV – in the Illawarra comp.
“It seems really competitive down there.
“And, even though it’s only a five-team comp, that could work to their advantage.
“They’re playing tough footy every week.
“I’m sure they will pick a strong squad; and Canberra will be the same.
“However, we’ll be ready.”
Newcastle faces Illawarra away from home on 16 May before tackling Canberra at the Maitland Sportsground on 26 June.
Training will kick off next week.
(Coach Aaron Watts): Cameron Anderson (Central Newcastle), Dylan Phythian (Central Newcastle), AJ Davis (Cessnock), Billy Gilbert (Cessnock), Connor Kirkwood (Cessnock), Denzel Burns (Cessnock), Gerome Burns (Cessnock), Robert Tuliatu (Cessnock), Tyrone Roberts-Davis (Cessnock), Wyatt Shaw (Cessnock), Henry Penn (Kurri Kurri), Luke Higgins (Macquarie), Matt Moon (Macquarie), Cooper Jenkins (Maitland), James Taylor (Maitland), Jayden Butterfield (Maitland), Matt Soper-Lawler (Maitland), Jacob McCudden (The Entrance), Joe Bromage (West Newcastle), Blake Andrews (Wyong)