GRIFFITH players have dominated the inaugural squads for the new Riverina Rhinos in next year's Football NSW Regional League.
Locals make up the vast majority of the youngsters selected in the under 12, 13, 14 and 15 boys sides with only a sprinkling of players from other Riverina towns making the cut.
Two separate days of trials were held at Ted Scobie Oval and were overseen by Football Riverina community development manager and Rhinos technical director Blaise Fagan, who was delighted with the level of talent on display.
He predicted the Griffith-based side has the ability to spring some major upsets against their fancied metropolitan opponents next season.
"Some of these metro sides are going to come here and get a bit of a shock," Fagan said.
"These are some of our best kids. We're going to have a fair degree of success in our first year.
"Country kids are quite fit and they love the challenge � but we're also going to surprise them technically.
"In all of the grades we've got players who've represented the NSW Country team.
"We've got some very, very good footballers across the board and I'm excited."
The Rhinos will become the first team from the Riverina to enter the development-focused Regional League, and will take on elite junior teams from metropolitan Sydney and other regional locations on a fortnightly basis.
Fagan said he was "disappointed" that so few external juniors put their hands up to trial � but their loss is Griffith's gain.
While the Rhinos were designed to be a side for the whole Riverina, the sheer volume of Griffith players � and the fact the side will play out of three different Griffith venues on rotation � ensures there will undoubtably be a very local feel about the operation.
All four coaches � Sharif Moursi (under 15s), Ben Duggan (under 14s), Jim Rimmer (under 13s) and Ross Morgan (under 12s) � are also Griffith-based.
"I was disappointed with the response from the other areas � Wagga turned out to be a bit of a win in the end, there's about 10 or 12 kids from there selected, but there was only one from Albury," Fagan said.
"Even so with the limited numbers we got � the majority from Griffith and a fair amount from Wagga � I think we'll still give it a fair push.
"These are very talented kids and you'll see a fair few of them in the 2014 state program as well.
"Every one of them is looking forward to the opportunity to step up and show their wares.
"They see it as an excellent challenge.
"And we've got excellent coaches in charge of each team, in my opinion.
"They've all got a focus on player development over results, which is very important."
While pre-season training has already begun for some teams, the Rhinos' first official challenge will be in March for the Bathurst Cup, a new competition seen as the successor to the Proctor Cup and open to junior boys teams from the National Premier League 2, Regional League and association rep teams.
"We'll all go up to Bathurst to take the silverware off them," Fagan said.
"That will be all the grades, and that will be our first challenge and give us a fair indication of how we're traveling."