North Coast Bulldogs star Elliot Speed in action during an under-18 clash between the Grafton Ghosts and Woolgoolga Seahorses at Frank McGuren Field in 2019.
North Coast Bulldogs star Elliot Speed in action during an under-18 clash between the Grafton Ghosts and Woolgoolga Seahorses at Frank McGuren Field in 2019.

Speed praises Bulldogs’ pro style after big win

RUGBY LEAGUE: It was a perfect start to 2020 for the North Coast Bulldogs today with big wins over two games against the Central Coast Roosters in Tuncurry.

The Andrew Johns Cup under-16 side were first up and came away with an imposing 30-10 win before the Laurie Daley under-18 team, featuring Grafton Ghosts halfback Elliot Speed, took a 32-16 victory in their opening match.

Speed was near-perfect with his kicking and added a creative spark to the side as Nicholas Smith came up with two big tries to help their side home.

Elliot Speed's father and former Grafton Ghosts coach Col Speed said the side looked strong in their opener for the competition.

"It was good game. It was probably their first real hit out since they came together," Col said.

"They played really strong when they had to. They were down to 12 men for 10 minutes but they didn't drop off at all."

Col said Elliot did what he needed to in a standard performance for the 2019 Group 2 under-18s Player of the Season.

"He did his job, that's the main thing. He kicked well and looked sharp with the ball in his hands," Col said.

Col said that while it was a big win, things are just coming together and the side will gel more as they progress through the competition.

"As it progresses I think those better combinations will come," he said.

"They're a promising bunch and I think they'll do well."

Col praised the resolve of the group who put in so much of their time and effort just to pull on the Bulldogs jumper.

"These boys sacrifice eight hours of their week. Some of them travelling 800 or 900km a week for training. It's tough because they all have school and jobs outside of this," he said.

"It's a massive burden on them financially."

Speed was also complimentary with fellow Ghosts junior Hayden Ensbey's reaction after he was left out of the Bulldogs side for round one.

"The way young Hayden handled himself when he didn't make the squad was very impressive. He's a very mature young man and I know he was really excited to play," he said.

 

Hayden Ensbey (left) playing in the derby for the Grafton Ghosts against the South Grafton Rebels in 2019.
Hayden Ensbey (left) playing in the derby for the Grafton Ghosts against the South Grafton Rebels in 2019.

 

"They make changes as they go so he will get his chance in the rounds to come. He just needs to keep turning up to training."

Col said the competition has become a great way for young players to test themselves against some of the best players on the east coast.

"It's a great opportunity for them to play at a high level," he said.

"They'll play against the Parramatta Eels in Sydney next week. There'll definitely be some up and comers in that side."

On top of the experience, Speed said the competition gives the players a chance to see what the world of professional rugby league can be like with plenty of travel involved.

"There's some big trips away during the competition. They'll go to Sydney and Newcastle as well as some home games along the North Coast," he said.

"For the Eels game they'll leave on a bus at 9am on Friday from Coffs Harbour. That's a pretty big trip."