AFTER Saturday’s last trial against the Penrith Emus, Central West head coach Matt McRobert named the final Blue Bulls squad for the 2014 NSW Country Championships at Mudgee’s Glen Willow Regional Sporting Complex in a fortnight.
The Blue Bulls gained promotion into the tier one Caldwell Cup for this year’s competition following their 2013 tier two Richardson Shield title, and will be pitted against NSW Country powerhouses Illawarra, Central North and Newcastle-Hunter.
Parkes is the most heavily represented club with seven Boars picked in the squad, followed closely by Bathurst Bulldogs with five.
Orange City has just two representatives in inside centre Mesui Lemoto and hooker, and former Country Cockatoo, Josh Tremain.
Dubbo ’Roos have four representatives, while CSU Bathurst and Narromine have two each. Cowra, Forbes, Blowes Clothing Cup newcomers Mudgee and GrainCorp Cup heavyweights Trangie all have one.
McRobert said he and fellow selectors were happy with the final squad, particularly the addition of former Shute Shield outside backs in Forbes’ Jack Hammond and Bulldogs’ Tom Joseph.
“There was a lot of tough decisions, and that’s down to the quality of players we had trial,” he said.
“We think we’ve got the mix right. We’re young, particularly in the forwards, but that’s part of the reason we’ve selected guys like Dave Jessiman and Lachie McCutcheon, they have a calming influence over the younger players. The backs we have make for an interesting battle for starting spots as well.”
The Blue Bulls open their campaign against Illawarra on March 29, while Central North takes on Newcastle-Hunter. The two winners play-off for the Caldwell Cup, while the losers play for third and fourth the next day.
McRobert said he and his troops won’t be happy to just compete at the higher level, and are striving for a second straight country championship title.
“We have a goal at the start of each year, to win all our games,” he said.
“We know it’s a very significant step up from where we were last year. Newcastle-Hunter haven’t been beaten in six seasons, and the other two sides are always very strong. We won’t get an easy game, but we’ll definitely give ourselves every chance.”
CENTRAL WEST: 1. Chris Plunkett (Bulldogs), 2. Pete Nau (Dubbo), 3. Amoni Vea (Parkes), 4. Israel Symington (Parkes), 5. Hayden Tidswell (Bulldogs), 6. Dan Ryan (Parkes), 7. Hugh Medway (CSU Bathurst), 8. Lachie McCutcheon (Narromine), 9. Tom Hollis (Bulldogs), 10. Mahe Fangupo (Parkes), 11. Scott Burgess (Narromine), 12. Mesui Lemoto (Orange City), 13. Filisone Pauta (Dubbo), 14. Tom Joseph (Bulldogs), 15. Phil Tonkin (Bulldogs), 16. Josh Tremain (Orange City), 17. George Quigley (Trangie), 18. Enoch Toofohe (Dubbo), 19. Dave Jessiman (Mudgee), 20. Brad Pugh (Dubbo), 21. Ben Ryan (Parkes), 22. John Rathbone (Parkes), 23. Jack Garrad (CSU Bathurst), 24. Jack Hammond (Forbes), 25. Sam Marika (Cowra), 26. Norris Korivui (Parkes).