Orange stars headlining NSW Country sides for title defences in Townsville

BLUE'S HER COLOUR: Confederates recruit Rach Hoey will line up for NSW Country for the first time, she'll come up against her former West Australian teammates. Photo: JUDE KEOGH
BLUE'S HER COLOUR: Confederates recruit Rach Hoey will line up for NSW Country for the first time, she'll come up against her former West Australian teammates. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

Confederates’ boom 2017 recruit Rach Hoey’s no stranger to the national stage, but this year’s Australian Country Championships in Townsville will have a very different feel for the versatile 25-year-old.

Instead of lining up against NSW, she’ll be wearing sky blue.

After an off-season move to the colour city Hoey will represent NSW Country for the first time, after turning out for Western Australia Country the past two years, also earning Australian Country selection in 2015.

She’ll line-up alongside Bathurst’s Maddie Tattersall and Kelsey Willott as well as Lithgow’s Clare Bosman, Tamika Bostock, Amelia Leard and Jess Luchetti.

It’s a huge Premier League Hockey contingent and, while they don’t play together, there will be some familiarity with each others’ games that puts NSW in good stead to defend its 2016 title.

NSW starts its title defence against Queensland on Friday, before Hoey takes on her former side on August 15. Dubbo’s Courtney Hogan will also line-up in the women’s side.

The NSW Country men’s side is also gunning to defend the title it won in Darwin last year – and the three straight it won before that – and it’s a side headlined once again by Orange’s Michael Dillon and Nic Milne.

Although he’s from Bathurst, the colour city will claim Riley Hanrahan for this tournament too, considering he represented Orange at the state titles.

The trio is joined by Lithgow’s David Reid and Luke Sheppeard in the side, along with Bathurst’s Jaden Ekert, who coached NSW Country to glory last year and will mentor the side again in 2017.

BACK-TO-BACK: Michael Dillon and Nic Milne show off NSW's spoils last year, they'll be looking to win a second straight Australian title this year. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

BACK-TO-BACK: Michael Dillon and Nic Milne show off NSW's spoils last year, they'll be looking to win a second straight Australian title this year. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

“We have a handy side, it’s quite ridiculous actually when you look at some of the names,” Ekert, confident of claiming another title, said.

“There are some fresh faces and a few central west players, Nic Milne and Luke Sheppeard – they are fantastic players for their respective clubs.

“Riley, at the state champs he picked himself, he scored 16 goals in six games. You can’t argue with that.

“We are going for five in a row, so yes, fingers crossed.”

NSW Country’s men’s side also kicks off its campaign against Queensland on Friday.