By Wayne Cousins
14/05/2010 4:56:23 PM

Throwing 30 young rugby league players from different backgrounds in an overcrowded room may well be a recipe for disaster but not in the mind of coach Grant Jones.

For Jones and his Wests Tigers U20s coaching staff, it provided a valuable insight into the young men he will oversee this season.

Having already cut back on numbers from a very big pre-season training squad and with the trials completed, the three day camp in the first week of March at Nelson Bay PCYC was about harmony, friendships and creating a strong culture.

It is the moment Jones knew he had a quality outfit at his disposal for the second consecutive year after guiding the Wests Tigers to the U20s grand final in 2009.

The camp already has paid off with the Wests Tigers sitting in second place on the Toyota Cup ladder with six wins from eight matches. A victory over third placed South Sydney at the SCG on Sunday, May 16, will give the Wests Tigers their seventh straight win.

“There was no luxury. Everyone was thrown in together. Surprisingly, they were all happy,’’ Jones recalled.

Legendary Wests Tigers prop John Skandalis – the U20s Strength and Conditioning Co-ordinator - said there was no room to hide for the quieter players.

“It was pretty noisy and crowded in there. It wasn’t the best smelling room either,’’ Skandalis joked.

“There were a few characters but no one was as good as Junior Roqica. He does these funny voices and alter egos.

“By the end of the three days, the boys really knew each other better. They had no choice not to.

“We did a few team activities such as our version of the Amazing Race (tv show)…there was a bit of mayhem around the streets of Nelson Bay as the boys went looking for clues.

“There was a basketball competition. (Five-eighth) Bodie Clarke talked himself up as the best basketballer in the team but he wasn’t. It was all in good fun.

“The idea of the camp was to set our goals and for everyone to make a commitment to not only themselves but to each other.”

Jones says a key component in the make up of the team is that there are “no big egos”.

“Our captain Matt Hyland and our vice-captain Jay Florimo are very good people. There are no clicks, they all seem to want to be around each other,’’ he said.

“A guy like Junior has a great sense of humour and is good for the boys.

“The boys love to play footy and they get on really well. It is a very close group. This team will only get better too as the season progresses."