Hardy and Smith rewarded with NSW Country selection
SHOALHAVEN rugby union duo Mitch Hardy and James Smith have been rewarded for their performances at the recent Country Championships with selection in the NSW Country Cockatoos squad.
The squad was announced after the championships in Mudgee, where Smith and Hardy were both playing for Illawarra.
While it was a slightly disappointing weekend from an Illawarra perspective, both agreed being selected was a big positive to come out of it.
They will shortly go into a training camp, before playing games against NSW Suburban, NSW under 20s and the Australian Services Team, throughout the course of the season.
It is the first time Hardy has made the squad and he said he was stoked when he learnt of his selection.
“I grew up wanting to make it, but I never did when I was younger, so I’m stoked to get the chance,” he said.
“It’s funny, because when I was playing in Sydney I was actually selected for the Subbies [NSW Suburban] team and I played against Country.
“I had mixed feelings about that, because I’ve always considered myself more of a country boy and that’s who I wanted to play for, so it was kind of weird.”
Hardy played in Sydney for a number of years before returning to the Illawarra competition with Shoals last season.
Having previously played for the Subbies team, he is really hoping he gets the nod to play against them in their first game.
“Two of my old coaches from my club St Pats are actually coaching them now and there will probably be a few of my old teammates, so I’m really hoping it pans out well and I get to play that one.
“We’ve got the trial weekend coming up, so that’ll be a chance to impress and hopefully I get a shot.”
Smith on the other hand, has been a member of the squad since returning from a stint with Norths in the Shute Shield in 2010, but said you can never expect to make it based on reputation.
“It’s one of those things where you still have to earn your spot each year, there are no walk ins,” Smith said.
“Generally there’s a core group of about five to 10 players, but there are always new guys coming in as well,” he added.
Smith said the clash with Subbies is always one to look forward to.
“They like to think they’re better than us, but I’d say it’s about 50/50.
“I always like playing them and it doesn’t take much to lift for that one.”
In addition to the three games they will play, Country will select another squad later in the year to tour the West Coast of America.
Both Hardy and Smith expressed a desire to be part of that squad and said they will be doing all they can to try to impress selectors.