Country v City Preview - 2014
Country vs City
Apex Oval, Dubbo
Sunday 4 May, 3pm
Two Rabbitohs in the form of halfback Adam Reynolds, and centre Dylan Walker will take part in the annual City-Country clash this Sunday. For Reynolds, the match is his second opportunity in a blue and gold jumper, while for Walker, Sunday represents his very first representative cap.
The opportunity is one that Rabbitohs Head Coach Michael Maguire is certain will only add to his two young-guns’ respective repertoires, as well as being a reward for hard work.
“I’m pleased that the players are getting a few rewards off the back of what they’ve been doing,” said Maguire.
“The experience that players gain – by seeing others prepare and going about their business – they’re all things that certainly add perspective and learning to all players involved in these rep teams.
“I think you get bits of confidence and a bit more belief about yourself and your game, and it really challenges you to see how you can use your skills with other players as well.
“Rep players tend to come back with a bit of confidence knowing that they stack up with other quality players.”
To read more about Michael Maguire’s thoughts on both Dylan Walker and Adam Reynolds’ role for City, please click here.
New South Wales Coach Laurie Daley has a few decisions to make ahead of State of Origin Game I. With the likes of Robbie Farah, Todd Carney and James Maloney all no guarantee of playing owing to injury, Sunday’s City-Country clash is likely to serve its original purpose as an Origin trial.
Much of the speculation over the last two years has centred around the five-eighth position, with a battle-royal unfolding between the likes of James Maloney, Josh Reynolds, John Sutton, Todd Carney and Jarrod Mullen for the number six jumper.
If Maloney is fit come Game I, odds are that he will retain the pivot spot, but Country’s Jarrod Mullen has done the job before, and is playing well enough to make a genuine claim. Time – and possibly this match – will likely tell.
But it’s not all about the back-line. City Prop forward’s Andrew Fifita and Aaron Woods, along with Country’s Aiden Tolman will be placed under the microscope to decipher who exactly will be powering the Blues’ engine-room. All three are genuine contenders for a spot at prop, but none will be more fired up than Andrew Fifita.
Fifita has everything to play for following his exclusion from the Kangaroos side that will take on the Kiwis tonight (Friday). At his best, Fifita is one of the most damaging players in the game, and with the disappointment of missing the Test, coupled with the opportunity to snare a Blues jersey, Country has every reason to expect a less than impressed Fifita to make his intentions known.
Throw in the question-mark over Robbie Farah for Origin, and NSW have a task on their hands. Oddly enough, two Souths Juniors and former Rabbitohs are shaping as options, as Nathan Peats (not playing in this match) and Beau Falloon in the frame.
So many possibilities and only 80 minutes in which to make them. Time will certainly tell.
Keys to Victory
The real question is; what constitutes victory in this match? Is it won on the score-board, or is it all about individual performance in pursuit of a Blues jumper?
You can bet that both teams will be chasing victory, but even if players find themselves on the wrong side of the score, a good performance and selection in Origin could be deemed a victory – of sorts.
On paper, the City-slickers may have a slight edge with the likes of Fifita, Josh Reynolds and Jorge Taufua – among others – lining up in City colours. But Country always make for a strong outfit when playing in their CRL colours.
Game-plans will likely be simple, with enough space built in to allow for players to show the breadth of their potential to Blues selectors. Expect some real bash and barge up-front, with speed the order of the day in the backs.
Spotlight – Dylan Walker
The Souths Junior only made his first-grade debut in round 10 of the 2013 season, and incredibly, is still eligible to play in the Rabbitohs’ under 20’s NYC side. But that hasn’t stopped the Mascot Jets product from cementing his spot in the Rabbitohs’ top squad and being selected for City.
After a brief stint at five-eighth to begin 2014 – an experiment that proved he could play in the number six jumper – Walker returned to his favoured centre position, bolstering the Rabbitohs’ defence out-wide while also causing opposition defences a wealth of problems with his explosive and powerful running game.
To purchase tickets to this match, please click here.