Juniors turn on top performance for St George Illawarra

BIG HIT: Orange junior Elijah Smyth (tackling) works on a Dragons HPU drill with Brock Campbell (holding the bag), with St George premeirship-winner Ben Hornby watching on. Photo: LUKE SCHUYLER 0820lsstgeorge3

BIG HIT: Orange junior Elijah Smyth (tackling) works on a Dragons HPU drill with Brock Campbell (holding the bag), with St George premeirship-winner Ben Hornby watching on. Photo: LUKE SCHUYLER 0820lsstgeorge3

STRENGTHENING ties with the central west region, St George Illawarra Dragons’ High Performance Unit handed several of the region’s brightest rugby league talent an opportunity to shine on Wednesday afternoon.

Led by Orange guns Jedd Kennedy, Brock Campbell, Elijah Smyth and Hudson Spicer, close to 20 Western Rams juniors were put through their paces in front of Dragons Holden Cup co-coaches Ben Hornby and Dean Young in a bid to impress the premiership-winning pair.

A long standing relationship between the Dragons and central west, St George Illawarra recruitment manager Ben Haran said the Rams region forms a large part of the Dragons’ scouting network.

“We like to give young kids the opportunity to come in and spend some time with our coaches, based on the things we’re doing with our players back home,” Haran said.

“It gives them a bit of an insight into that.”

Some of the Dragons current NRL squad has been identified in HPU camps, with Dubbo CYMS junior Charly Runciman the perfect example.

Yesterday at Wade Park, the select group - including Dragons scholarship holders Clayton Cooley from Dubbo and Matt Nicholson from Forbes - were put through a series of tests that gauged physical height, weight, strength and power.

The players’ aerobic capacity was also pushed through a 1.2 kilometre time trial and 40 metre sprint.

“We’re testing things like their aerobic capacity, their speed, power, strength, all of those sorts of things, which are similar tests we do back home,” Haran added.

These methods of identifying and recruiting young talent are used by the Dragons in various other areas across NSW.

But Haran insists the central west remains a firm breeding ground for rugby league talent.

“This is an area we see as having a lot of talented kids, the western region, and we’ve had a few of our young players come from here before,” he said.

“It’s important we show kids our club can provide them with opportunities to work at this level.”

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