Shield of dreams: Goolagong confident Blue Bulls can earn country promotion

CONFIDENT: Central West hooker Tom Goolagong. Photo: MATT FINDLAY

CONFIDENT: Central West hooker Tom Goolagong. Photo: MATT FINDLAY

“WE absolutely have the side to win the Richardson Shield.”

Tom Goolagong, Central West’s lone specialist hooker, confirmed the Blue Bulls’ ambition to take out the second-tier Richardson Shield at this weekend’s NSW Country Championship and earn promotion into next year’s Caldwell Cup in the process.

“We’ve spoken about it, that’s our obvious goal for this year,” he said.

“We have looked a little further ahead and spoken about keeping this group together next year, regardless of whether we remain in tier two or earn a crack at the top division.

“We played that trial against Illawarra earlier in the year, the reigning top tier champions, and we were beating them in the first part of the game which is promising.”

The bog-trotting hooker is one of eight Orange Emus in the Blue Bulls’ squad, alongside Simon Badgery, Andrew Cosgrove, Zac White, Nick Hughes-Clapp, Nas Havealeta, Josh Ellice-Flint and Tom Green.

They’ll be joined by Orange City halfback Tom Nell and centre Jake Davis.

“It’s nice to have some friendly faces knowing the way they play, but it doesn’t really make too much of a difference,” Goolagong said.

“Obviously our patterns, set piece and everything else is completely different to what we use at Emus or they use at Orange City ... it’s actually quite refreshing to get some new and different points of view on how to play the game.”

Goolagong and his Central West teammates, seeded fifth, take on Mid North Coast in their opening clash at Armidale’s Bellevue Oval complex, with Far North Coast, Western Plains and hosts New England also set to battle it out for promotion.

“We know nothing about Mid North Coast but that’s fine, we’re worrying about ourselves,” Goolagong said, before adding if preparation is anything to go by the Blue Bulls have every right to be confident.

“The preparation has been great. After naming the side the coaching staff put a lot of emphasis on game play, our starter plays and exit strategies, which we’re really getting our heads around and executing well at training.”

The Caldwell Cup and Richardson Shield preliminary match-ups are on Saturday before Sunday’s deciders and consolation finals.

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