After his Central West side finished third at last weekend’s NSW Country Championship, Dean Oxley confirmed he will throw his hat in the ring to coach again in 2018, saying he believes the Blue Bulls aren’t just making up numbers in the top tier.
In Oxley’s eyes, they’re capable of winning it, like they did in 2014.
It will take a lot of hard work, no doubt, but it’s work Oxley is sure the playing group is willing to do in a bid to return to the top of the NSW Country Rugby Union pecking order.
“I’ll certainly be applying to coach again. It’s all well and good to be playing and winning in the Richardson Shield but we want to be in the Caldwell Cup and it's very good rugby at this level,” Oxley said.
“It’s not club rugby, it’s representative rugby and you’re basically playing two grand finals at these carnivals, so it’s about playing pressure rugby too.
“Some guys handled it [last weekend] and others didn’t but I think we showed we belong here. Central North have been very good in the past so to beat them convincingly is pleasing, we’re think we were up to Illawarra’s level (this year) and they made the final.
“The big thing for Central West now is that we can’t let ourselves drop off. We need to keep working and building, I think at the very least the core of [the 2017] group will return next year.
“I think we all think we have unfinished business now.
“We’ll be trying to make sure we stay in touch with these guys and obviously try to identify any other talent across the region before next year’s championships.”
Central West was thumped 58-8 by eventual champions Newcastle-Hunter on the opening day of last weekend’s top tier title, but bounced back and smashed Central North 48-3 to avoid relegation back to the Richardson Shield.
“We didn’t play particularly well on the Saturday, there was a few kicks and kick-chases that really let us down and Newcastle carved us up,” he said.
“But the win on Sunday was very pleasing. We produced the kind of performance I knew we were capable of, it was a bit disappointing that didn’t come on the first day though.
“Central North had a big forward pack and we ran them around and played good, quick, attacking rugby.”
He’s hopeful that second performance could lend itself to having a number of Blue Bulls named in the NSW Country Cockatoos squad, which is expected to be released in the next fortnight or so.
He highlighted the likes of Orange Emus trio Nick Hughes-Clapp, Tom Goolagong and Carter Hirini as chances, lauding the work of Forbes’ Charlie French and Parkes’ Lloyd Rogers too.
Although, Hughes-Clapp has reportedly made himself unavailable for selection.
"We had a number of guys make it through to NSW Country's squad last year, I'm hopeful we can have a few this year too," Oxley said.
"Nick Hughes-Clapp was outstanding, he played every minute on day one and led from the front whenever he was on the field. Charlie French was strong too, they're both Country players from last year.
"I was really impressed with Tom Goolagong's performance in the second game, his breakdown work and aggression in defence were great. Lloyd Rogers from Parkes, too, he came off the bench and played No.10 on day two and was superb.
"He provided great ball for his outside men, like Carter Hirini on the wing, who also had an outstanding carnival".