PREMIERSHIP winning Forbes forwards Zac Merritt, Jake Grace, Ben Maguire and Mudgee brute Hamish Bryant headline a bumper Western squad named to take on Italy next month.
The Magpies trio and Dragons’ newly crowned Dave Scott Medallist have been named in Darren Jackson’s 21-strong squad preparing to tackle the Azzurri at Bathurst’s Carrington Park on October 15.
After barnstorming performances leading their respective sides to Group 10 and Group 11 premiership glory, the quartet will slide straight into Jackson’s representative outfit as he prepares for a second and more successful tilt at the country championships in 2017.
Jackson was frothing at the thought of an “in-form and fit” Western side tackling Italy, a team likely to be made up of players with Italian heritage currently playing in the NSW and Queensland Cups vying for spots in the Azzurri’s squad for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
“It’s an opportunity for a number of players to be looked at, at this level,” Jackson said, he and his selectors naming 14 new faces in the Western fold.
Jackson is aided at the selection table by former Lithgow, Group 10, Western and NSW Country prop Kip Maranda, Group 11 president Derrick Hoe, and Castlereagh Cup representative Shaun Hooper.
“We’ve named a lot of new faces, and the benefit is most of those guys have been playing in finals footy, if not grand finals for their clubs.
“Each competition was close this season, which is great for clubs and the Rams. Hopefully we can unearth some exciting new talent.”
In a show of strength for the Castlereagh Cup competition, four players- Brad James, Kurt Gudgeon, Jeremy Thurston and Jarrah McCready – have been named in Jackson’s squad.
Orange CYMS guns Mitch Davis, Simon Osborne and Dom Maley are also in the outfit, while Narromine and Group 11 skipper Luke Thompson has also made the cut, indicating Jackson’s desire to pick a monster pack to take on Italy.
Only one Dubbo player, Macquarie’s hooker Jeremy Smith, was included the side, although Jackson confirmed the October 15 clash coincides with Dubbo CYMS’ end of season trip.
The Rams have also named strong under-21 and under-16 sides for the day, with both set to take on the Federation Italian Rugby League Australia sides as curtain raisers to the main event.
Jackson’s first grade side will train twice in the lead-up to the clash, both times at Manildra’s Jack Huxley Oval, on September 24 and October 8.
WESTERN: Riccie Arriola (Oberon Tigers), Keelan Bresac (Lithgow Workies), Hamish Bryant (Mudgee Dragons), Mitch Davis (Orange CYMS), Sam Dwyer (Parkes Spacemen), Jake Grace (Forbes Magpies), Kurt Gudgeon (Gulgong Terriers), Brad James (Gulgong Terriers), Shane Lalogafau (Nyngan Tigers), Ben Maguire (Forbes Magpies), Dom Maley (Orange CYMS), Jarrah McCready (Gilgandra Panthers), Zac Merritt (Forbes Magpies), Jacob Neill (Nyngan Tigers), Jack Nobes (Cowra Magpies), Simon Osborne (Orange CYMS), Brent Seager (Bathurst Panthers), Jeremy Smith (Dubbo Macquarie), Luke Thompson (Narromine Jets), Jeremy Thurston (Coonamble Bears), Warren Williams (Cowra Magpies).