ORANGE City’s Hunter Ward has joined a long line of Lion cubs to earn Junior Cockatoos representative selection.
Following the completion of the under 15s Country Junior Championship in Newcastle two weeks ago, Ward essentially made it impossible for selectors to overlook him with a stand-out tournament on the side of the scrum for Central West.
Named forward of the championship in a Central West side that finished third, Ward will be joined by four of his Central West teammates in the Junior Cockatoos’ 23-man squad set to tour Fiji in September.
With Orange City players Lachy Stewart and Tom Fisher getting a look in with the Junior Cockatoos over the last two seasons, Ward says his omission from the NSW Country line-up in 2013 spurred him on to finally make the step up this year.
He believes the exposure to a higher level of competition will do wonders for his rugby.
“The step up, the extra fitness I’ll have to do to stay in the game will be a lot higher,” the openside flanker said.
“Better coaches, better footy against better players ... I think it’ll help.”
Leading Central West’s title defence at the under 15s championship in Newcastle, this side suffered just one loss across five games of rugby and conceded three tries in a strong campaign against NSW Country’s best juniors.
But a 10-7 loss to Hunter meant the junior Blue Bulls slipped to third on the championship ladder.
They beat New England easily 48-0, then went about amassing a similarly dominant scoreline against Illawarra, winning 36-0.
A 7-3 win against Central Coast and 23-5 victory against Mid North Coast capped Ward’s Central West side’s results.
“We went alright at the country champs,” he said.
Expecting a huge leap in competition when NSW Country takes to the field for the Dave McCormack Memorial Shield on the Gold Coast next month before trips to Canberra and Tamworth for the ACT Challenge and City-Country clashes respectively, Ward believes he’ll be ready for anything.
“I’ll take this as it comes. I’ll give it 100 per cent. I’ll play my hardest,” he said.
New England gun Percy Duncan was deemed the best back at the country championship and also made the 23-man Junior Cockatoos squad dominated by Central Coast and Hunter players.