True Blues brains trust for U19s

Margie McDonald

Nearly 40 Origin games experience is helping guide the NSW Under 19s men’s team at Leichhardt Oval tomorrow night against Queensland, with coach Andrew Ryan calling in fellow True Blues Steve Turner, Luke Bailey and Shaun Timmins to prepare the players.

Timmins, who played for NSW from 2000-2004, was with Ryan for last year’s six tries-to-three (32-14) win over the Maroons in Redcliffe.

This year Turner (NSW 2008 & pictured above) and Bailey (NSW 2002-2009) have joined the brains trust.

“It’s been awesome having those guys here this year. It’s their first time,” Ryan told

“Timmo has been there before but these other guys have added a lot in their own way – they’ve been outstanding.

“Bails (Bailey) has particularly been putting his emphasis on the middles while Zap (Turner) has put his spin on things on our edges and he came from a great club culture at both the Storm and Bulldogs.”

The NSW Under 19s are after three State of Origin shields in a row having won in 2022.

Ryan expects the genesis of another win to come from the middles’ work up front.

“It’s where these sorts of games are usually won and lost, so defensively we need to be good and not just at the start – all the way through,” he said.

The 2023 win had a ripple effect after centre Ethan Strange scored a hat-trick and then went on to earn his NRL debut with the Canberra Raiders.

Among his Under 19s teammates last year to follow suit are Chevy Stewart (Raiders), Josh Feledy (Wests Tigers), Latu Fainu (Wests Tigers) and Ethan Sanders (Parramatta Eels).

Stewart at fullback, back rower Jermaine McEwen and prop Sam Tuivati are three members of the 2023 NSW squad returning for a shot at back-to-back wins.

“That’s been a real positive having those three guys involved last year,” Ryan said.

“They bring that leadership and advice and expertise from the game to share with the new boys.

“And we’ve spoken about not putting pressure on ourselves after last year’s result.

“We just know that if we prep well and with the quality of players here means the rest of it will look after itself.”

There are three players named in the 2024 squad who have NRL experience – winger Jesse McLean (Penrith), Stewart and Roosters lock Blake Steep.

The 19 year-old has been recalled by the Roosters for Saturday night’s NRL Round 16 match against Canterbury-Bankstown. Newcastle’s Cody Hopwood is now in the 17 with the starting line-up to be confirmed before kick-off.

There are also some familiar last names – hooker Matt Arthur is former NRL coach Brad Arthur’s son, while back rower Kaiden Lahrs is True Blue Tom Learoyd-Lahrs’ eldest.

Kick-off is at 7.45pm following the U19s Women’s State of Origin at 5.45pm.