PETER Veenstra has been involved with Central West Rugby Union longer than some of the competition’s younger talents have been alive, but even he can not remember a time when so many Blue Bulls have been named in the NSW Country Cockatoos squad.
On the back of their NSW Country Championships winning performance, 11 members of the side coached by Bathurst’s Matt McRobert were named in the Cockatoos squad.
Veenstra, who is currently enjoying his 28th year involved with Central West Rugby Union, could not have been happier.
“It’s terrific. I can’t ever remember having that many in the Cockatoos squad before. It is just a fabulous accomplishment and it really says something about the depth we have in Central West Rugby Union,” the CWRU chief executive officer said.
“The fact that we came up from division two, we won the Richardson Shield the year before, and the goal was to win it and we did against the likes of Newcastle and Illawarra.
“Those teams train twice a week and players might have to travel 45 minutes at the most, some of our Central West players are having to travel two-and-a-half, three hours to make training.”
Contesting the annual tournament late last month in Mudgee, it was a 36-14 win over defending champions Newcastle Hunter that sealed the Blue Bulls the Caldwell Cup victory they so badly wanted.
That the Central West under 20s side took out their competition as well - winning the Rowlands Cup decider 15-5 against Central Coast - made it a day that will rate on Veenstra’slist of highlights.
The last time Central West managed a double was back in 2003. Bathurst Bulldogs prop Chris Plunkett, one of the 11 Blue Bulls named in the 2014 NSW Country squad, was involved in both campaigns.
“The last time that both the Blue Bulls and our under 20s both won was in 2003 and in 2003 both Chris Plunkett and Josh Tremain were playing in that under 20s squad. Now they are champions with the Blue Bulls, so that is something really special, “ Veenstra said.
“Every member of the Blue Bulls team contributed to that win, even the players who started on the bench, and what Matt McRobert and his coaching team put into it was just outstanding.
“They were super prepared and it showed. They had the guys in the right head space and it is such a skill to be able to do that.”
Aside from Plunkett, the Bathurst Bulldogs had new recruit Tom Joseph, Hayden Tidswell and long serving versatile back Phil Tonkin named in the NSW Country squad.
For Tidswell it was part of a remarkable return to the sport. After spending last year playing some first division league for Cowra, he has earned Central West selection, a Country Championship, a place in the Cockatoos training squad and an opening round win with Bulldogs against Orange Emus.
“He just hasn’t missed a beat, his skills are right up there,” Veenstra said.