The members of Parramatta Eel's Under 15s Talent Squad boarded the bus and settled in for the road trip to Nyngan in the far west of new South Wales.
After answering some questions about Nyngan's exact geographic location, the boys were surprised to discover there is land beyond Windsor and, even better, there are some quality footballers out there as well. For those that are not sure, Nyngan is about 8 to 8-and-a-half hours from Sydney and west of Dubbo.
The Friday evening was a welcome to the bush, including pig-catching, pig-wrestling and blow up boxing.
The 42 players of the Talent Squad were split into a Blue Squad and Gold Squad for the weekend of games with each team playing two games on the Saturday and one game on Sunday before returning to the big smoke.
The Challenge featured teams from Group 10, Group 11, the Far West, Penrith and of course two teams from the Parramatta Eels.
The Parramatta Blue Squad were first up on Saturday morning, taking on a energetic Under 16s Group 11 side, made up of players from the Lachlan/Dubbo district, stretching from West Wyalong to Nyngan (4 hours north to south) and Wellington to Cobar (4 hours east to west).
After a fast and physical first half the Parramatta Blue Squad was able to take advantage of some tired Group XI players, complete some crucial sets and win the match.
Our Parramatta Gold Squad encountered a determined CRL Under 16's Far West Academy Squad, boasting players from the Barwon Darling district, from Nyngan to Cobar and Bourke to Lake Cargellico.
A slow start from the Gold Squad made it hard to reel the Far West Academy back in, and in the end, the Golds ran out of time to secure a victory.
After a long wait the Parramatta Blue Squad played their second game of the day against a revved up Penrith Panthers side which got off to a great 10 nil lead within 10 minutes. After a half time look in the mirror, the Blue Squad were able to claw their way back into the match with some impressive defence but it was not good enough. Penrith went on to win the match and eventually take out the Nyngan Carnival.
The second match of the day for the Gold squad was a forgettable one, the boys were not able to switch back on after a quick turnaround from there first game and received a lesson in mental preparation and the important nature of body language going down to Group 10 very convincingly.
Group 10 draws on the best Under 16s Talent from the towns of Orange, Mudgee, Bathurst and the lower Blue Mountains and has worked very hard over the last two seasons in developing a good program in order to compete against the NRL clubs who take part in the Nyngan Challenge.
However, life always offers you another chance - its called tomorrow - and after a night of some soul searching the boys turned up to Larkin Oval on Sunday ready to right a few wrongs and turn some attitudes around.
The Gold squad were first up, facing a Group 11 side ready to compete. The Gold squad let the game get off to a bad start with a try in the opening set, but from this moment on it was all effort and determination.
Parramatta Gold and Group 11 shared the lead numerous times thoughout the game until a late try to the Gold Squad and conversion from the side line saw the scores locked up with 3 minutes to go.
A penalty on the siren to Parramatta Gold saw a penalty goal attempt from the 50m mark fall short and the game finish as a 28-all draw. The boys' effort in turning around so quickly really impressed the whole squad, the other teams participating and especially the loyal band of parents who travelled up to cheer on their sons (and future Eels).
Redemption was on the mind for the Parramatta Blue Squad after their disappointing loss to the Panthers the day before.
The effort was evident against the Far West Academy and in the team's defence but the Blue attack didn't start to fire until the second half. In the end, the Blue squad were able to dominate possession and with smart field play and some classy touches completed the match as convincing winners.
Post Match Presentation included awards for 1 member of both squads for their efforts over the course of the weekend.
The Gold Squad's Daniel Mati-Lefi was congratulated on his consistent form thoughout the carnival and his ability to encourage those around him by running some crisp unders lines.
The Blue Squad's Michel Topou took out the award for his leadership capabilties on the team and outstanding defence and attitude whilst on the field. Congratulations Boys!
After a long bus trip home it was fair to say we were all ready to get off the bus and back home to our loved ones, but the coach had a brief chat with the entire squad about what it will take them to become successful.
Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in, day out, time and time again. What these boys have is an opportunity for success that kids all over the countryside usually miss out on. Its imperative they do not take these opportunities for granted if rugby league is an avenue they are keen to pursue.
A special mention must go to the people of Nyngan for their hospitality and a big thank you to Col Wright of Nyngan who every year puts together the Rugby League weekend and invites the players and staff of the Parramatta Eels to take part. It is not only a very enjoyable trip and competition but it gives our kids a real life experience that many of the them will talk about for many years to come.
The trip to Nyngan does not conclude the program for 2013: the Parramatta Eels Talent Squad will continue to have monthly sessions for the remainder of the season in order to continue improvement for our players on and off the field and to be able to maximise the benefits all the players and staff received by attending the Nyngan Easter Challenge.