Blayney’s Joey Hobby and Nick Tilburg, and Orange CYMS’ Craig Tarr, will test themselves against the best that Parramatta has to offer this weekend, when their Western Rams under-18 side takes on the Eels’ senior talent squad at King George Oval.
The under-18 Rams will use the trial to prepare for a testing 2017 season, where the team will be out to once again reach the final of the Country Rugby League Championship.
Western coach Cameron Greenhalgh has retained plenty of familiar faces but said he’s just as keen to what the fresh blood can provide.
“We had a training run on Saturday and we’ve nearly got our team finalised. The boys seem really keen,” he said.
“I’ve got the good nucleus from last year back. The whole back row which took us to the final is here again. In the front row the options are still open, but there’s new players in those positions and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.
“In the halves I’m trying a few different combinations and in the outside backs we’ve made some changes and seen some new faces there.”
The Eels squad is also somewhat of a mystery to Greenhalgh and his team.
“They’ll be well-drilled, obviously because they’re part of the extended Parramatta Eels SG Ball squad. I expect them to be big, mobile, relatively fit and with good structure,” he said.
“I always look for a few trial games before making our final Rams squad and Parramatta were willing to do that for us, and to have it out at Blayney as well is great.”
Also taking to the field this weekend will be the Western Rams under-17 development squad at Leichhardt Oval. The 19-strong group faces their Balmain Tigers counterparts.
The Dave Elvy-coached Rams squad is stacked primarily with Bathurst Panthers and St Pat’s guns, along with five stars from Orange and Blayney.
Bears duo Brad Baker and Pat Duggan will both line-up in the Rams’ development squad, alongside Orange CYMS trio Josh Board, Aiden Kelso and Nathan Swain.
Greenhalgh said the older players need to stay on their toes with an eager group of Rams 17s waiting in the wings.
“Barring injury most of the guys taking to the field this weekend will be in with a good chance of making the final squad,” he said.
“If the guys put their hand up over at Leichhardt then they’ll also be putting their hand up for selection.”
A larger 30-strong Rams under-18 group – split into two sides – went down by 28 points in their recent trial against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles’ SG Ball unit.
Saturday’s clash at Blayney’s King George Oval kicks off at noon, while the Rams’ game at Leichardt kicks off at 1pm.