Captain Mitch Aubusson On The Importance Of Country Rugby League

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Captain Mitch Aubusson On The Importance Of Country Rugby League

Image: @NSWRL

It was almost fitting that as rugby league prepared to farewell the City-Country concept for the final time, the NRL was rocked by three successive drug scandals on representative weekend.

Because just as those in the bush were preparing for their 80 minutes of recognition, even fans watching the final training sessions in Mudgee could be heard talking about the players and club officials allegedly misbehaving back in the big cities.

As if the traditional fixture wasn't a hard enough sell.

More than 50 players withdrew before sides were even selected, amid fears of short turnarounds from the Sunday clash at NRL clubs.

In Mudgee, players and officials are still dirty that the concept is being scrapped.

Coaches of both sides, Brad Fittler and Craig Fitzgibbon aired their frustration on Saturday, joining the likes of former Country greats Michael Cronin and Garry Jack who had vented their spleen during the week.

When asked how the league could help better serve the country in the future, Fitzgibbon was most blunt.

"The most logical answer is don't put an NRL game on four days after a representative fixture," he said.

Fittler too has been critical of the league's failure to act on last year's withdrawals, which he claims left him well prepared for this year's issues.

But the frustration of both sides is expected to spill over onto Glen Willow Stadium on Sunday.

Fittler planned on motivating his side by reminding them that it was winner takes all - and most importantly the Shield.

"But then (NSW Rugby League CEO) David Trodden told me both teams actually use the same cabinet," Fittler said.

Not that it matters to either side.

"I'd just like to have the last little label with CRL in it," Fitzgibbon said.

Country captain Mitchell Aubusson promised to call upon the spirit of Country legends like Fitzgibbon and Andrew Ryan, who he identified as heroes in the maroon-and-yellow jersey.

"I felt like every time players wore that country jersey they were playing for me as a young kid who played in the country," he said.

"We've been to Orange and Mudgee the past few days. The kids have just jumped on board with it.

"I think the hierarchy should come see what impact it has on those kids."

The match began as a genuine Origin trial in 1987 and gave Country a proper representation, after losing their players to the Sydney-based competition, since it became a yearly contest in 1928.

City won the first five matches but results have since been reasonably shared since 1992.

The game, however, has fallen gradually in credibility since the early-2000s.

In 2003 Gosford sold out to watch incumbent NSW halves pairing of Andrew Johns and Trent Barrett battle it out with hopefuls Braith Anasta and Brent Sherwin, but the following year Australian representatives weren't considered for selection and the rut began.

CITY-COUNTRY ORIGIN STATS (since 1987):

Played: 27, City 14, Country 11, Drawn 2

Points scored: City 513, Country 528

Biggest win: Country 42-10 (2001)

Most games: Andrew Ettingshausen (City) - 8

Most tries: Andrew Ettingshausen, Aaron Gray (City), Amos Roberts (Country) - 4

Most individual points: Hazem El Masri (City) - 32

- AAP

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