The Red Bend production line continually pumps out some pretty handy rugby league talent and the 2017 Country Rugby League player of the year winner is testament to that.
Tori Freeman took out this year’s CRL top honour after helping Monaro to the under 23s championship title.
Freeman played his junior footy through the Red Bend Catholic College system, playing under 14s, under 16s and under 18s with the Forbes Magpies as well.
It’s a period of time Freeman says molded him into the player he is today – one of the best in the bush after accepting his award at the CRL presentation dinner in Sydney last Friday.
“A lot of my junior footy was tough out there (at Forbes and in Group 11), and it made me the player I am today,” he said.
He played fleetingly with junior Group 11 representative outfits, but didn’t fully make his mark on the rep scene until he arrived in Canberra and played with the Monaro region.
The backrower helped lift his adopted area to this year’s inaugural CRL under 23s title, the red and blues hammering Western 62-0 in the opening round at Cowra.
“The victory was unreal,” Freeman said.
“All four games, but to beat Newcastle up there (in the final) as well was a real grinding effort from the boys, especially in the conditions. It was surreal to take out the inaugural title.”
The West Belconnen star said he entered the championships expecting a tough opener against the Rams.
The 11-tries-to-none result translated into a training run, more than a championship bout.
“I wouldn’t say training run,” Freeman laughed.
“I saw the team on paper and told all of the boys it was going to be a tough game but we got out there and the scoreboard said different.
“But it was still a good hit-out and there’s still quality football players and talent out at Western. That’s where I played my junior football.”
Freeman says he remembers the likes of Dave Cowhan and Isaah Yeo in his age group in Group 11, while he looked up to older Red Bend boys like Joel Thompson and Zac Merritt coming through the system.
He’s now playing with the NSW Country under 23s.