Former Byron Bay and now current Northern United player Clarence Kelly.
Former Byron Bay and now current Northern United player Clarence Kelly. Brenden Allen

Kelly makes NSW rugby team

NORTHERN United flyer Clarence Kelly has become the first Northern Rivers player since 2006 to win a spot in the NSW Country Rugby League team.

Kelly, who only just missed out on the side last year, was the only player from the Northern Thunderbolts divisional team to make the team after the Thunderbolts bowed out in the semi-finals against the Bidgee Bulls.

The last local player to earn Country selection was Ballina prop Dylan Montgomery in 2006 after he was a late call-up to the side and before him you have to go back to Lismore Workers lock Martin Griese in 2001.

“We haven't had too many over the past few years,” Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League secretary Doug Harrison said.

Kelly's selection is just rewards for the precociously talented 21-year-old.

Many thought the former Ballina junior could have been playing in the National Rugby League by now as he was one of the most talented of the Northern Rivers under-18s team that won the Country Divisional Championships in 2005.

That same side included Gold Coast Titans players Shannon Walker and Will Matthews and Sydney Roosters centre Mitchell Aubusson.

However, Kelly has elected to stay local and he won a premiership with Byron Bay last year after switching from the Seagulls to the Red Devils in 2007.

And there is already some predicting that his new club Northern United will figure in this year's grand final.

The Country squad will be headed by former NRL player and prop Grant Wooden and will include three players with NRL experience: Brent Grose, Stuart Webb and Dennis Moran.

The Country team will play the Queensland Rangers in Forster-Tuncurry in early July with Country Under-16s and Under-18s playing the curtain-raisers against Queensland.

NSW Country

Fullback, Matt Gruber (Tuggeranong); wingers, Clarence Kelly (Nth United), Janek Goebel (Shoalharbour); centres, Brent Grose (Thirroul), Marvin Filipo (Nelson's Bay); five-eighth, Adam Kerr (Corrimal); halfback, Scott Borg (Thirroul); props, Grant Wooden (Wagga Kangaroos), Simon Osborne (Nelson's Bay); hooker, Chris Adams; second-rowers, Blake Dunn (Thirroul), Mick Dodson (Goulburn Workers); lock, Daniel Ritter (Scone). Bench: Jay Van Meegan (Thirroul), Stuart Webb (Helensvale), Hayden Jeans (Central-Charlestown Newcastle), Dennis Moran (Parkes). Coach: Mal Graham (Newcastle).

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