The 2020 Narrabri and District Junior Rugby League under-13s side has been the benchmark of its age group in the north west in recent years and now the young guns are ready for a new challenge.

The junior Blues will compete as an internationals team for the first time when they take the field for round one on Saturday, July 25.

Narrabri will travel to Gunnedah to play its first two matches where it will meet the hosts and Farrer.

North West Group 4 Junior Rugby League has adopted the gala day format which was reported in The Courier on Thursday, June 25, meaning all teams from each age group will play at the same venue on game day.

Games will be played across a 40-minute duration made up of four 10-minute quarters, a change made to allow for more drinks breaks considering there will be no water runners this season.

The Narrabri under-13s team will play in a six-team competition alongside Gunnedah, Farrer Gold, Farrer Green, Kootingal and North Tamworth. The Blues will play home matches on gameday four on Saturday, August 15, and on gameday eight on Saturday, September 19.

The junior Blues under-13s will be a team to watch in 2020.

The team was crowned champions at its home carnival last year for a seventh consecutive year, but what was most special about that run was the fact that the side never lost a game at any of those carnivals.

The Lee Browning-coached team also defeated a Tamworth Minor League development side last year and is expected to be a force in its first year in the internationals competition in 2020.

This year the side has a mixture of talent from both Narrabri and Wee Waa, and the team has even
welcomed Darcy Todd, a talented youngster from Bingara, on board.

The under-13s junior Blues have been training hard for several weeks now and will continue to do so during the school holidays.

Coach Browning told The Courier that the players were ready to make the step up into the internationals competition.

“I think half of them will do it pretty easy and a couple will take a bit of encouragement to learn their ways,” Browning said.

“But they will all definitely get there.

“The boys are used to running off a halfback, you run off a halfback in the little league, but now they’ll be running off the dummy half and we will have scrums so it’s a different game, different rules.”

Browning said that he and the team were keen for the season to kick off, and that he expected the side to be competitive in the six-team competition in 2020.

“When we first started training four months ago I was expecting that we wouldn’t be beaten,” he said.

“I thought we’d give it a fair shake.

“Now we’ve lost a few key players but I think we can win more than half our games, if we do that I’ll be happy.

“I’m very keen for it to start, I think I’m a bit more keen than some of the boys. But the 13 or 14 boys we are getting down here at training are all really keen too.”

The team has now been training for three weeks following a lengthy break brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Browning said that numbers had been “a bit shallow” since.

“We’ve lost a few kids from last year who’ve moved for school and now we’ve lost a couple more due to COVID, I suppose parents don’t want them to come out,” he said.

“At the moment it looks like we have about 15 or 16 players.

“If there’s any kids who want to have a game I’d encourage them to come along, but it’s a bit hard, you’ve got rugby starting up as well and they are trying to get numbers as well.”

Browning said the team was made up of a respectful bunch of kids.

“When they show up to training they listen,” he said.

“We have a wide variety of characters and they are not short of a laugh. They are good kids.

“Our captain this year is Declan Rooney.

“Declan is a gel to everybody, everybody gets along with him and he’s probably the biggest character I have in the team. He makes everyone laugh constantly.”

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