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Russians to take Centre Stage at
A clash between two of Rugby League's oldest clubs will provide the backdrop for the Australian debut of two players from one of the Code's newest playing nations.
This Saturday at Henson Park, where foundation clubs Newtown and Balmain meet in a Premier League trial, Russian hopefuls Sergey Dobrynine and Vladimir Trofimov will take their first steps towards a playing future in the NRL.
The Moscow Dynamo team mates have been named as centre partners in the Tigers side, but coach Peter Camroux insists they will form a left side centre/wing combination.
Trofimov, a junior sprint champion in his homeland, is described by Camroux as "an absolute flying machine". And after scoring three tries for the Bears during the Cougar World Sevens, Dobrynine has since impressed at training.
Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens set tongues wagging when he offered the minnows a chance to extend their Australian sojourn by trialing with the club over the pre season.
For the past week, they've bunkered down with 4 other Tigers cubs at a house in Drummoyne, where Camroux says "social accommodation" is not short lived.
And while the language barrier has inevitably brought it's challenges - as well as an interpreter to the pair's first training session - Dobrynine and Trofimov have experienced no problems keeping up on the field so far.
"They're doing it a bit tough communicating, but both are fit, strong guys," Camroux said. "All they really want to do is learn and have a go."
"Neither have had a real good coach before, so we're just looking to polish them up on the finer points of the game."
The Tigers plan to give their Russian hopefuls the best possible chance of snaring a contract by playing them in each of the team's three trials.
Camroux said Sheens was hopeful that the bold experiment would succeed, but more will be known after Saturday's match.
"The whole part of their games will probably need to be improved, but in saying that we haven't seen them play yet," he said.
The appearance of Trofimov and Dobrynine at Henson Park will no doubt revive memories of another novel Rugby League gamble that took place at the same ground over two decades ago.
In 1977, NFL star Manfred Moore made his league debut for Newtown amidst a swarm of intrigue and publicity. After scoring a try in his first outing, the Oakland Raiders Superbowl XI champ went on to make four further appearances for the Jets.