ILLAWARRA senior rugby coach Brendon Schoupp believes his side is “under no illusions” ahead of their Caldwell Cup semi-final against Central West.
The Illawarriors mentor said on Wednesday that before beginning to think about the prospect of playing Newcastle for NSW country rugby supremacy his side’s sole priority was taking on the Blue Bulls.
“We are very aware this will be a tough and hard semi-final especially considering Central West will have a home-town feel about them,” Schoupp said.
Meeting on Central West’s home turf, Schoupp was reluctant to give away the Illawarriors’ style of play.
“I can’t give away too much but we have a very controlled and well-balanced style,” he said.
“This is the country championships and you have to be strong across all areas. For us it is all about being on the same page.”
In 2013 Illawarra were runners-up to six time champions Newcastle. The Illawarriors were leading 13-11 before Newcastle put together a massive second-half to win 28-18.
Schoupp said although there was an incentive for players to be selected among the NSW Country Cockatoos he said Illawarra’s focus will be on becoming country champions.
“We had a good representation from Illawarra in the country side last year and we expect to have players there again. Certainly these players are expected to lead by example,” he said.
“But my whole emphasis will be playing well as a team and then country selections will look after themselves.”
In preparation for Mudgee the Illawarriors won their trial against Campbelltown Harlequins last Saturday.
Schoupp said the trial began nervously as his side were working on new combinations and made a few errors.
“It was great to play both Penrith and Campbelltown’s first grade sides in the past weeks. If anything it has put us in good stead. We are now settled, everyone knows their role,” Schoupp said.
Central West has returned to the top tier of New South Wales country rugby and tomorrow’s semi-final at Glen Willow Regional Sports Stadium is expected to reignite a rivalry between the regions.
“There is a rivalry that dates back to the 1990s when we had some really tough battles. Illawarra and Central West used to meet quite regularly in these matches,” Schoupp said.
The last time Illawarra won the Caldwell Cup was in 2004.
For the superstitious, Illawarra’s prior championship win was 1994.
Central West last won the Caldwell Cup in 2003.
ILLAWARRA: Anthony Allport (Shamrocks), Andrew Barrett (Vikings), David Capp (Vikings), Joel Diggins (Vikings), David Glesson (Camden), Ben Greentree (Camden), Mitch Hardy (Shoalhaven), Gavin Holder (c) (Camden), Josh Holman (Camden), Andre Itula (Avondale), Matthew Lee (University), Don Nepia (University), Tim Olsen (Tech-Waratahs), Lee Russell (Camden), Alex Sims (University), Eli Sinoti (Avondale), James Smith (Shoalhaven), Scott Tarasenko (Camden), Paul Tuala (University), Mitchell Wakeford (Vikings), Simon Watts (Vikings), Tim Windle (Camden), Mark Minter (Camden), Dane Russell (Camden).