With the naming of the first representative teams for 2014 just hours away, Jack Brady caught up with Country Origin coach Trent Barrett ahead of next Sunday's clash against City Origin in Dubbo. Also an assistant coach at Penrith, Barrett speaks about the annual City-Country clash, its importance and his chosen post-footy career path of coaching.
Q: How are you enjoying life as a coach?
A: It's good fun. It's especially good when you're winning. It's always a challenge though but it is something that I'm really enjoying and I'm learning something every week.
Q: Obviously the Country team gets picked on Sunday afternoon, have you settled on a side yet?
A: We've got a fair idea of who we're going to pick. The injuries to James Maloney and Todd Carney over the weekend haven't helped but there are blokes there who we are comfortable can do a job for the Country side. We'll sit down at some point on Sunday afternoon and announce the team Sunday night. We'll have a better idea about players' injuries later on but it looks like we'll be missing a couple.
Q: How does the process work? Do you sit down with New South Wales coach Laurie Daley and talk about who is on his radar for NSW Origin selection?
A: Yeah, we've already had that discussion so we already know who Laurie wants to look at. There are a few young guys that we would love to give an opportunity to which we will hopefully be able to do, and then there are a few senior blokes in there as well who really need to push their claims for an Origin spot, so it's got a fair bit riding on it.
Q: In your opinion, how important is the City v Country fixture on the rugby league calendar?
A: I think it's really important. Not only for bush footy but also for the development of our rep players, our younger blokes. Boyd Cordner and Andrew Fifita made their debuts in last year's City v Country game and ended up playing for Australia and that's a big thrill for them. This year we would like to do the same thing and in that regard I think it's important.
Q: The game is built up to be a NSW State of Origin trial but do you feel the City v Country game gives an opportunity for older players or others who may never experience State of Origin a chance to play representative football?
A: Definitely. It gives them a chance to play with better players and to be in an environment where they are surrounded by the best players and I guess look at them and take a few things away from other individuals. From an individual and club point of view I think it's good that players get that chance to play rep footy and go back to their clubs as a better player.
Q: With the game being played in Dubbo next weekend, do you find it important that the game travels to such places and gives a little bit back to the bush?
A: It is important. Particularly in Dubbo, we've got a lot of players at Penrith alone from that Group 10 and 11 area – I'm from Temora myself so all the country boys enjoy getting out to the bush and taking it a bit easy for a few days.
Q: You played two games for Country in the latter stages of your career; do you consider it an honour to play in a game of its calibre?
A: It's always something I wanted to do. Earlier on in my career, players that were in the Test side weren't eligible to play so I missed out on a lot earlier on but I got to play a few in the back-end. It's something I enjoyed; I watched a lot of good players play in that jumper and I was happy to do it myself.
Q: Finally, you achieved almost everything you could as a player over your brilliant career, what are your aspirations as a coach?
A: I'd like to be successful and I'd love to be a first-grade coach one day but I'm enjoying what I'm doing at the moment and it's good fun. I like being involved in rugby league and I always have done since I was a kid and I'll just keep plugging along.