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Murri under 16s player Zac Laybutt.

It is a rivalry as intense as that between the Maroons and the Blues in the State of Origin arena.

Which is why the fact the Queensland Murri under 16s have a Beetson in their side is just one reason why they are confident of a strong performance against the NSW Koori under 16s in Mudgee on Saturday night.

The showdown is  the curtain raiser to the Charity Shield clash between St George Illawarra and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Jack Beetson, the grandson of the great Arthur Beetson, will line up at prop for the Murri side. There is a Thurston in the team as well, back-rower Jayden Thurston, who is no relation to Johnathan Thurston.

Murri coach Sam Reuben said the progress of Beetson in the last six months had been pleasing.

"There is a lot of unknown pressure on this kid but he has developed really well since our tour of New Zealand last year," Reuben told

"Jack’s communication has built up and he is getting really aggressive. As you know with the Beetson family, they are a big breed and Jack is six foot four.

"He has added that aggression to his game because he realises that he needs to do the job in the engine room and own the middle third for everyone else to shine.

Murri under-16 player Jack Beetson.
Murri under-16 player Jack Beetson. ©

"Jack’s body structure is still developing but if he puts his mind to it he can achieve anything he wants."

The team played as the Murri under 15s last year and went undefeated on a tour of New Zealand in December where Beetson started at prop in all three matches.

Many of the players have travelled thousands of kilometres to be a part of the side. Winger Alan Motton comes from Weipa, a mining town on the Gulf of Carpentaria, and can run the 100m in under 11 seconds.

"And we also have front-rower Gabriel Mooka who travels by dinghy from an island near New Guinea to Horn Island in the Torres Strait, and then catches a plane down to Townsville where he is a boarder at school," Reuben said.

"Gabriel is stocky and reminds me of Martin Bella with his running style. He has great power and leg speed.

"This is a great opportunity for guys like Alan and Gabriel who are from remote communities and don't often get the opportunity to be seen.

Murri under 16s player Gabriel Mooka.
Murri under 16s player Gabriel Mooka. ©

"The fact that the QRL has jumped on board with this team has given them that opportunity."

The Murri under 16s side has showcased outstanding talents, now NRL contracted players, in the past such as David Fifita, Gideon Gela-Mosby, Brenko Lee and Ash Taylor.

"It is not just a program about developing rugby league players but also about developing an individual with communication, attitude and culture," Reuben said.

"When we went to New Zealand the Arthur Beetson Foundation found two cultural mentors who helped the boys develop their own dance. When the New Zealanders did the Haka we had our dance to display in return.”

The standout players in the team are the halves Zac Laybutt and Reece Walsh.

"Our two halves are our superstars because they make the ball float and sing on the field,” Reuben said.

"Zac Laybutt, the brother of Kyle Laybutt at the Cowboys, was our best player of the tour to New Zealand. He is a tall five-eighth much in the mould of Scott Hill when he played at the Melbourne Storm.

"Zac can stick the ball on anyone’s chest and has a fantastic kicking game.

"Reece is part of the QAS system already and gives us plenty of direction."

The Koori lads won the clash last year by two points and the Murri boys are determined to reverse the result.

"The rivalry is just as fierce as Queensland v NSW in State of Origin,” Reuben said.

"That is what we always talk about in our team meetings because we don’t want to lose to NSW."

The team flew to Sydney and travelled by bus to Mudgee on Thursday and on the way got to stop off and tour the Penrith Panthers facilities.

Reuben said the welcome the boys received from the Panthers was outstanding and much appreciated.

"Tyrone Peachey came out and had lunch with us and spoke about his community and Nathan Cleary shook all the boys' hands and spoke about being humble,” Reuben said.

“Nathan made the point that at any time, someone can replace you. The Penrith coach [Anthony Griffin] met us and spoke and all our boys were humbled by it.

“Glen Liddiard, the Aboriginal liaison officer for Penrith, organised it and it was a great experience for all of us.”

MURRI UNDER 16S: Alan Motton (Quandamooka Goaugals), Ben McKellar, Daelan Aaron Rolls, Carlos Smith, Coby Fechner, Preston Weatherall-Grimshaw, Jayden Thurston, Thallis Halliday, Tyson Stevens, Watjerra Briggs, Keanu Wright-Dunrobin (Southwest Queensland Emus), Gabriel Mooka, Isiah Kawane (Townsville Blackhawks), Larson Dale-Doyle (Woorabinda Warriors), Nicholas Fenton (Moreton Bay Stingrays), Tate Roberts (East Coast Sharks), Tuvalli Pereira (Kambu Warriors), Reece Walsh (East Coast Sharks), Zac Laybutt, Jack Beetson (Sunshine Coast Bunyas)

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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