Three Kempsey Cannonballs players have been selected into the NSW Country rugby union side.
Blake Saunders, 16, Annika Reilly, 14 and Heath Lancaster, 18, competed for the Mid North Coast representative sides at the recent Country Championships and their performances left a lasting memory with scouts, who picked them for the NSW Country squad.
It marked redemption for Blake, who missed out on selection last year after making the initial 40-man NSW Country side.
"After missing out last year, I set myself a goal to make the team this year," Blake said.
"I focused on training harder and doing my best for the team."
Meanwhile Annika, who is playing her first season of rugby union for the Cannonballs' Under-16s girls side on Friday night, has had an immediate impact on the sport.
The St Paul's College student's natural talent comes as no surprise as she is following in the footsteps of her older brother Triston, who represented the junior Wallabies at the Oceania Championships earlier this month.
"This is my first year of properly playing rugby union but I have played a bit at school in the past," Annika said.
"I watched Triston play a bit growing up and it definitely increased my interest in the sport."
Heath, who has been a mainstay in the NSW Country side for the last few years, is looking forward to ripping in for the representative team once again but also has his eyes set on higher honours.
"I am really looking forward to it, especially the country versus city match," Heath said.
"From that game, they will pick a NSW side which will travel to Western Australia to take on Perth and my goal is to make that side."
The 18-year-old stepped up into first grade for the Cannonballs last year and Heath claims the higher standard of rugby has helped his preparation.
"Playing against the big fellas has helped me in a lot of ways," he said.
"Most of all, it has given me a higher confidence when I go back to playing against people my own age."
The additional game time has also helped Heath's fitness, as he plays for the Under-18s and first grade every week.
The three rugby prodigies head into camp this weekend and will play numerous games in the lead up to the pinnacle country versus city match on August 3.
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