Ten players from last month’s grand final squads will line up for the Newcastle Barbarians in Saturday’s National Rugby Championship semi-final curtain-raiser at No.2 Sportsground.
Man-of-the-match Tiueti Asi and Fijian international Seva Rokobora from back-to-back premiers Hamilton will team up with Wanderers opponents such as prop Ben Christensen and breakaway Ben Ham.
They will join representatives from four other Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union clubs and tackle a Country Barbarians side, including Tongan fly-half trialist Soni Halanukonuka, before the main game featuring the NSW Country Eagles and Melbourne Rising.
Newcastle Barbarians coach Scott Coleman said the fixture, designed to be an open affair with no kicking for territory, quick taps and unlimited interchange, was a chance to highlight the code in this region.
“It’s a good commitment from the players and it’s a chance for them to get seen if they want to play higher levels,” Coleman said.
“More so, it showcases Newcastle rugby. Hopefully it helps get a crowd there to support the main game and gives us a chance to get bigger games here in the future.”
Former Waratah and NSW Country forward Mark Taufua has been coaxed over for a run after a decade in rugby league including 88 NRL appearances, a World Cup with Samoa in 2013 and most recently skippering Western Suburbs at Harker Oval.
Kick-off is 12.50pm. The main game is 3pm.
It follows Friday’s announcement that a Fijian-based team will join the NRC next year.
Meanwhile, the Maitland Blacks have reappointed Mick Hickling and Ryan McCormack as co-coaches for next season after falling just short of the semi-finals this year.
NEWCASTLE BARBARIANS: Ben Christensen, Barcelona Lupe, Steve Lamont, Faavae Sila, Inoke Rokotolu, Alex Hills, Marvin Tauhinu, Mark Taufua, Ben Ham, Tiueti Asi, Dylan Heins, Seva Rokobora, Junior To’o, Daiyu Ishimori, Ben Taylor, Brendan Holiday, Carl Manu, Sireli Bainvalu, Salace Bailey, Sam Fogarty, Tana Lauti, Chris Logan, Ben Harriss, Josh McCormack.
COUNTRY BARBARIANS: Charlie French, Anthony Allport, Alex Wilson, Nathan Brennan, Aaron Brennan, Paul Tuala, Brad Sherridon, John Tiko, Gareth Ernst, Soni Halanukonuka, Rhys Peters, Filisoni Patua, Will Gresham, Navi Tiko, Rob Richardson, Luke Sheridan, Ethan McGuinness, Dave Healy, Shane Ryan, Joe Taylor, Dominic Bower, Dominic Napier, Michael Howell.