The grand finals may be done and dusted but the rugby league is a long way from over.
Western Rams coach Darren Jackson is expected to announce his squad this week which will tackle the Italian national team at Bathurst’s Carrington Park on October 15.
The showcase match was announced in mid-August and will be used as part of Italy’s build-up towards the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
Jackson is keen for his side to be tested by the ‘Azzuri’ and added he wanted a team named as soon as possible to allow plenty of preparation time.
“We wanted to leave the guys alone while they had semi final and grand final commitments,” Jackson said.
“The team will probably be announced (soon) … we’d like probably two sessions before the game.”
Jackson confirmed he was keen to stay loyal to the players who represented the Rams in this season’s Country Championship campaign.
That Rams side, which featured Dubbo CYMS trio Jyie Chapman, Colby Pellow and Jarryn Powyer as well as eight other Group 11 players, lost the opening match of the Championship but the coach confirmed he was pleased with his players’ efforts.
But with some players battling injuries and others unavailable and away on end of season trips, Jackson did confirm there would be some new faces in the Western squad.
Players from the Forbes Magpies and Mudgee Dragons clubs are in with a real shot of selection after recording shock wins in the Group 11 and Group 10 deciders respectively, and Jackson admitted Forbes halves Nick Greenhalgh and Mitch Bourke are players who have caught his eye.
“I like to pick guys who are in form but I also like to stay loyal,” he said.
“So the guys who have been there will get the first call but we’ll look at guys with good attitudes and who want to be there, that’s what I’ve been trying to instill.”
The Italian senior outfit will largely comprise Queensland Cup and New South Wales Cup players, with the match being their final chance to impress before before the team flies out to Serbia for the 2017 World Cup qualifiers.
The day at Carrington Park is set to be a bumper one with Western also taking on Italy in an under-21s match and an under-16s fixture.
The day is also a great opportunity for Western Division to continue building its relationship with the Italian rugby league association, with the fixtures at Bathurst following on from the Group 10 under-15s and 16s playing the Italians at Lithgow last October.
“It will be good and it will be a bit of a showcase,” Jackson said. “We’ll be keen for it and we’ll have a few unavailable but there's a lot of guys keen and that’s a good sign.”