THE Illawarra Titans Green, a team made up predominately of Group Seven stars, have taken out the first ever 2019 Battle of the Countries tournament at the weekend.
The Titans, coached by the Indigenous Group Seven under 23 men’s side mentor Nathaniel Morrison, started their two-day carnival at Figtree’s Sid Parrish Park with a win against the Illawarra Titans Blue.
Blue scored the first two tries of the match before Morrison’s men clicked into gear, to score 24 unanswered points, to win 24-10.
After winning on Saturday, the Titans, which featured Albion Park-Oak Flats’ George Campbell, Izac Parkes, Scott Austin and Paul Bell, Nowra-Bomaderry’s Tyson Simpson, Jake Gould, Ryan James, Zac Blattner, Keeden Johnson and Chaise Sines and Berry-Shoalhaven Heads’ Josh Coulter, booked their spot in the semi-final after defeating the Campbelltown Ghosts 30-6 on Sunday morning.
As Green finished first in their pool, they were once again pitted against Titans Blue in the semi-final – a game they won 20-6.
Then in the final, Green, a squad which also included Illawarra’s Paul Roberts and Elwyn Roberts as well as Group 16’s Caine Breileyand and Mason Harrison and NSW Sydney Shield’s Tyler Terard, easily accounted for Brothers United 18-nil, to take out the title.
“It’s special to have taken out the first Battle of the Countries tournament, especially considering most of the guys are form last year’s Group Seven under 23s Indigenous side,” Morrison said.
“It was after that All Stars game that the boys mentioned we should put in this side in a knockout in the future and when this tournament came up, they all jumped at the chance.
”The boy’s confidence grew after their first win, as they realised they were too fast, fit and enthusiastic for any of the other teams – which was the case in last year’s Group Seven All Stars match.
“All the boys are very proud of their heritage and that’s what it’s all about.
“We have so much Indigenous talent on the South Coast, this side just being the tip of the iceberg, with players such as Rivar Roberts, Harley Grundy and Kuyan Wellington being unavailable – it’s great to see these boys be able to showcase their talents.”
While Morrison admits every players did their role during the tournament, which raised awareness for suicide prevention, he said their were a number of standouts.
“Ryan James was sensational all weekend long, as was captain Tyson Simpson – both who I expect both to have huge Group Seven seasons,” he said.
“I also have to mention Mason Harrison, who was named man of the match in the final and was head and shoulders above anyone else in that game.”