Newcastle and Country Origin five-eighth has claimed he's not there for a haircut when it comes to putting his best foot forward this Sunday afternoon in the annual City-Country game. Credit: Col Whelan. Copyright: NRL Photos.
Although the Knights have kicked off their season in an abysmal fashion, the men from Newcastle will be the most represented team in Trent Barrett's Country Origin side this Sunday afternoon in Dubbo.
With five players now being named to play for Country – winger James McManus, halves Jarrod Mullen and Tyrone Roberts, second-rower Beau Scott (who is captaining the side) and late inclusion Robbie Rochow – the Newcastle Knights connection appears to be imperative for a Country team looking to secure back-to-back victories.
Lacing up for his fourth Country appearance, McManus said having so many club teammates in camp would help him personally as well as the team around them.
"It's always a great week and a great privilege to play for Country and I've really enjoyed every time I've played for them. I'm looking forward to getting with the boys again and it's going to be a good time," McManus told NRL.com
"I suppose we've got a connection here now too and it makes camp a little bit easier when there are blokes that you know around you, but all the guys here are great blokes so it's really going to be a good week actually.
"We've have a pair of halves [in Roberts and Mullen] that know each other inside and out. Hopefully that translates into some smoothness on the field."
The game will be a first for a couple of the Knights quintet, with Scott captaining the side and Roberts and Rochow making their representative debuts.
"Beau's a champion player and he really deserves to have the 'c' next to his name – he's a real leader on and off the field and it's going to be great," McManus said.
"[As for Tyrone] he's certainly going along well. I think he'll add some spark; he's certainly got a lot of ability and I've played with him on the left edge at Newcastle and it's great to see him get an opportunity."
While Newcastle have had an average season at best thus far, winning two of their first eight games, McManus said representative honours like this would only boost individuals' confidence and help the club in the long run.
"Rep weeks can do a lot for your career – just the way you feel about how you're playing – and it gives you a bit of confidence. So it's good to mix it up with players from different teams and see what they do during the week and during games," McManus said.
"You end up taking that experience into the rest of your year so hopefully we can build something. I think we've been playing better at Newcastle the last month so hopefully we can take this experience back to the club."
Five-eighth Jarrod Mullen agreed it was a great feeling to have four of his teammates by his side in the Country camp.
"Every time you get players selected from your side you get very excited, especially Tyrone Roberts and Robbie Rochow – it's going to be their first representative jerseys and so I'm excited for them too," Mullen told NRL.com.
"In saying that, all the Country boys here... I've played with most of them before, a few new faces here but that's the good thing about Country people – they get along well with each other. All the boys are really good fellas and enjoy each other's company."
Asked about his State of Origin chances, Mullen said the City-Country fixture had given him the opportunity to stake his claim for the NSW five-eighth role, despite only returning from a severe hamstring injury a fortnight ago.
"I'd love to play [Origin], mate. I'm obviously here to try and get selected. I'm not here for a haircut. I just have to put my best foot forward on Sunday and if we win the game and I play well then that can go towards [being selected]."