A STAR-STUDDED Three Ways United side heads to Raymond Terrace this morning on a mission to bring the hosting rights to next year’s Koori Knockout back with them.
A cavalcade of Group 20’s biggest names will line up for Three Ways in the long-running Indigenous tournament, which starts tomorrow and offers the right to host the carnival in the following year for the winner.
United came third last year but coach Graham Carroll considers his side a real chance of going further - and is daring to dream of what the Koori Knockout would be like in Griffith.
“If we bring it here, the economy here, they’d rake it in. It’s just so big,” Carroll said.
“Last year there were 64 sides, the prizemoney is about $60,000 and there must have been about 10 or 15,000 people there, and all from different walks of life. It’s amazing.”
Carroll described the Koori Knockout as a “privilege” to be a part of.
“All the years I was asked to play in it, I couldn’t because of work. Then you get asked to coach the side - I was asked three years ago and it’s the best three years I’ve had in football,” he said.
“People always ask, where can I get one of those (Three Ways) shirts?
“The boys step up another two foot when they pull it on.
“Ninety per cent of them are related so it’s a big family thing, they love playing for each other and the community.”
The squad includes a number of players who have shaken off premiership celebrations to take part, such as Albury’s Ben Jeffery and TLU’s James Williams and Daniel Judd.
But it is unlikely Three Ways will be able to call upon newly-crowned Dally M Prop of the Year, local product Andrew Fifita, who is expected to be named in Australia’s squad for the Rugby League World Cup later this month.
Nor will his brother David be available, as he prepares to line up for the Sharks in the NSW Cup grand final against Windsor on Sunday.
Team organisers have also given up hope former Raiders star Blake Ferguson - who was in Griffith earlier this year with mentor Anthony Mundine for a special Three Ways dinner dance - will play at the carnival.
“He was a maybe, but he’s a day-to-day bloke,” Carroll said.
“He said he was going to play but he hasn’t gotten back to us yet, so we don’t know.”
However, Carroll will have Penrith halfback Luke Walsh at his disposal - and the coach is licking his lips at the array of combination options at his fingertips.
“The run-on side is going to be very strong. Without David and Andrew it makes these other boys step up a little bit,” he said.
“The pack is unbelievable. But you’ve got Josh Charles in the centres and probably Luke Walsh and James Williams in the halves - they’ll be pretty good.
“Even with the two number nines - you’ve got Jarrad Williams coming on first and then Richie Bamblett is his replacement, so we’re not losing anything there.
“And it’s unlimited changes so it’s just one after the other. They’re all wanting to back up all the time.”
THREE WAYS UNITED
Choco Johnson, Cassidy Kennedy, Josh Charles, Ben Jeffery, Steve Broome, James Williams (captain), Luke Gras, Latu Fifita, Jarrad Williams, Daniel Judd, Josh Curphey, Luke Thompson, Kodie Charles, Richie Bamblett, Robbie Simpson Jr, Dwayne Kennedy, David Thomas, Adam Hanson, Tongia Fox, Luke Walsh, Nerrim Carroll.