THE Central Crows under-18 Mal Meninga Cup side will have a decidedly Roma feel to it next year, with no less than seven current and former locals named in the 30-man squad and coaching staff.
The Crows, a western Queensland rugby league side that will play some of the best young players from Ipswich, Toowoomba and the Sunshine Coast later this year, will be coached by Roma's very own Mal McMillan, with former Roma teacher Bob Boon as assistant coach.
Five Maranoa teenagers made the cut for the 30-man training squad after more than 60 players took part in the trials.
McMillan, a former Ipswich Brothers player and respected junior coach, said the opportunity to coach some of the best players across the region was a chance too good to pass up.
"I haven't coached in this age group before - I was involved with the under-10s side and I've coached Roma under-11s and work part-time with the NRL as well," he said.
"It's an opportunity to play against the best kids in the state - we're going to play against high-level footballers."
While he was excited to see the ability of the group of 30 players, which includes Roma boys Ollie Peak, Joey Packer, Bailey Lambourne, Jake Street and Boyd Jump, McMillan said defensive attitude was something he wanted to see when the squad went to camp this month.
"I like to play attacking football, but you need kids that can tackle," he said.
"I coach fairly free-flowing football, but you need that defensive co-ordination. You can teach it, but they've got to want to tackle."
McMillan praised the abilities of every boy selected, pointing out Bailey Lambourne as having something that is impossible to teach.
"His biggest asset is his enthusiasm - when Bailey turned up I was blown away, and his enthusiasm is infectious," he said.
"I would expect players like him to be in our top 17 - he's still got work to do, but he's great to work with."
Roma Crows Reps
Mal McMillan (coach, U18)
Joey Packer (U18)
Bailey Lambourne (U18)
Ollie Peak (U18)
Boy Jump (U18)
Jake Street (U18)
Tanar Rivers (U16)
Tom Eddie (U16)
Nathan Callaghan (U16)
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