Nelson Bay Junior Rugby League Club trio selected for SG Ball and Harold Matthews rep sides

REP SQUAD: Nelson Bay Marlins (l-r) Aiden Jenkins, 16, Cosmo O'Donohue, 16 and Jarred Williams, 13, have been named in the under 18s and under 16s train-on squads.
REP SQUAD: Nelson Bay Marlins (l-r) Aiden Jenkins, 16, Cosmo O'Donohue, 16 and Jarred Williams, 13, have been named in the under 18s and under 16s train-on squads.

For 50-plus years the NSW Rugby League has been providing a pathway for the best young and emerging talent to compete at the highest level through the SG Ball (under-18) and Harold Matthews (under-16) divisions.

The competition for places in the Newcastle Knights junior rep squads has never been tougher, particularly so for players from the out-of-town Nelson Bay Junior Rugby League Club.

This season the Marlins has had three players selected in train-on squads, a massive achievement for the club and a credit to the hard working Bay coaches, committee members and devoted parents.

Still only 13 years of age, Jarred Williams, from Nelson Bay, has been called into the Matthews squad while Anna Bay pair Aiden Jenkins and Cosmo O'Donohue have been named in the Ball squad.

For Williams, a strong front-row forward, playing above his age group at representative level is not uncommon.

"I have been playing up for the past two seasons so it doesn't phase me that I am still a year younger than most of the other players," he said.

"I enjoy playing with my mates and I have been doing that since the age of six, but I also feel lucky to have the opportunity to play rep footy. It means I have to train harder and longer throughout the off season but I don't mind."

REPS: Aiden Jenkins, Cosmo O'Donohue and Jarred Williams.

REPS: Aiden Jenkins, Cosmo O'Donohue and Jarred Williams.

Standing at 200cm tall and weighing in at 106kg, the soon-to-be 17-year-old Aiden Jenkins is also no stranger to rep footy, having been a member of both the under-16 and under-18 Newcastle Rebel squads over the past couple of seasons.

"As a front row forward I know I have to keep myself fit to remain competitive. I have enjoyed playing the game since I was eight years old ... it's been fun but I also enjoy the physical contact," he said.

"I was quite excited to be chosen in the Ball squad and I am looking forward to building my skills and confidence. I am also grateful for the support and coaching from the Nelson Bay club including Ji Hill and this year's coach Andrew Chapman."

The surprise packet among the the trio is 16-year-old centre/fullback Cosmo O'Donohue, who has only been playing the game for two years and with Jenkins was a key member of the club's U17 first division side.

"I had previously played a bit of soccer and I did little athletics for a while so I have always kept fit and active. Last year a few mates asked me to come down for a run so I did and I enjoyed it very much. Actually the game came naturally to me and I have loved it ever since," he said.

A speedy back who loves nothing more than to attack the opposition with space, O'Donohue said he was shocked to receive the call up into the Ball squad.

"I couldn't believe it at first but I want to make the most of the opportunity. I have so many people to thank including my playing mates and coaches for helping me get this far."

All three young men say they dream of one day pulling on an NRL jumper. And they will be following in the footsteps of some of the greatest ever players to lace up a boot in both the city and country regions.

The SG Ball has been been delivering much of rugby league's best players since 1965, while the Harold Matthews Cup has developed almost every NSW based star since 1970.

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