TWENTY-THREE local rugby players will compete against the best of the best in Sunday’s Junior Gold Cup opening competition round at Dubbo’s Apex Oval.
Previously, the Junior Gold program was purely training and development-based, however in 2014 a competition phase has been added.
Players from Orange, and surrounding districts will take part in both the under 15s and under 17s Western NSW squads.
The Junior Gold Cup will have 24 teams from across the nation split into four pools with the winners of each pool progressing to a semi-final.
The final is set to be played at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
The Western squads will also host Illawarra in Orange, and Sydney West in Bathurst, while travelling to Sydney to play Sydney North Harbour and Melbourne to play Victoria.
Western NSW under 15s coach James Grant said the program gives participants a chance to “get noticed”.
“All the players and games are reviewed after each match by the ARU (Australian Rugby Union) talent identification program,” Grant explained.
“Each game has two scouts watching. This way, if they go to trial for representative teams via club or school rugby, selectors will know them and have some background information on them prior to the trials.”
The Junior Gold Cup pits country players against their city counterparts.
“Our players have the chance to play against the best teams and players from across the country,” Grant said.
“These are the guys they’ll compete against for representative spots in the future, and hopefully as a direct result of this program, selectors and coaches will know exactly what to expect from the country kids.”
Grant said even with the squad playing games, the focus of the program is still development.
“We want to take these kids to their next level,” he said.
“If a guy is playing club footy, we want him to get picked in Central West teams.
“If he’s already a Central West rep, we want to see him make New South Wales Country, and so on.”
Orange’s Lachlan Duncan, Nicholas Fisher, Feleti Mateo, Nicholas Smith, Hunter Ward and Yool Yool will represent Western NSW under 15s, along with Kinross Wolaroi students Nedd Brockman, Harry Fisher, Aiden Kelso and Millthorpe’s Peter Donato.
Ethan Kelly and Lachlan Stewart are Orange’s under 17 representatives, along with Lucknow native Alex McNiven, Millthorpe trio James Donato, Daniel Donato and Charlie Mortimer, Borenore’s Clarry Pratten and Kinross Wolaroi students Jack Lamph, Charlie Cooper, Dean Phillips, Jakobi Robinson, Hamish Sheehan and Cody Walker.
These players will be on show this Sunday in Dubbo when the Western NSW squads take on their Central Coast counterparts.
The under 15s will kick things off at Apex Oval at 10.30am, and they will be followed by the under 17s at midday.