Central West coach Dean Oxley was expecting “six to eight” of his players to be named in the Cockatoos’ initial squad after last weekend’s strong showing at the NSW Country Rugby Union Championships and he got that, and then some.
Including Orange Emus Nick Hughes-Clapp and Tom Green, nine Blue Bulls have been named in Mat Thomas’ bumper 37-man training squad, which will be cut down to 23 before the Cockatoos’ first game in mid-June.
Hughes-Clapp and Green will be joined by Forbes’ Mahe Fangupo and Charlie French, Parkes’ Dan Ryan, Cowra’s Chris Miller, CSU Bathurst’s Lochie Robinson and Bathurst Bulldogs bolters Peter Fitzsimmons and Harry Webber.
“I think Central West surprised everyone a bit at the country championships, they certainly surprised Newcastle-Hunter on day one, but these blokes absolutely, definitely deserve their spots,” Thomas said.
“The way Fox (Oxley) coached them allowed them to really showcase their skills and that translated to strong rugby too, but some of these guys, they just forced us to pick them.
I think Central West surprised everyone a bit.Cockatoos coach Mat Thomas
“Tom Green is a guy who was really heavily in the discussion last year, but with his effort last weekend we couldn’t leave him out. Harry Webber was the same, he’s so light on his feet, and he forced us to pick him.
“Nick Hughes-Clapp, he looks like he’s put a bit more size on with some hard work in the off-season and it’s paid off for him, he was really strong in the second-row with Chris Miller.”
Central West and Illawarra dominate the squad, as you’d expect after they played off in the Caldwell Cup final, but one thing that jumps of the page is the lack of Novocastrians.
Prop Barcelona Lupematasila is the only Newcastle-Hunter player named, Thomas citing “issues with availability due to club policies” as the main reason.
“But, you know, Central West and Illawarra were the two best sides last weekend and the final was a really, really good game of rugby,” he said.
“In general, I’m really happy with this squad. We’ve moved a bit more toward thinking about NSW Country’s future as well, that’s our job, to make sure these guys can showcase their skills to potentially move on to the next level which several guys have in recent year.”
The Cockatoos squad heads into camp at Singleton on May 19 before their first game against Southern Inland in Sydney in mid-June. NSW Country finishes its campaign against Queensland Country at the end of June, the 2018 program is shortened due to NSW Suburban Rugby Union not putting a side together.
Central West also has a heavy representation in the Cockatoos Colts squad, eight Baby Bulls earning a nod including Emus Sam Greatbatch and Orange City Lions trio Nick Fisher, Hayden Goodall and Hayden Leopold.
They’re joined by Mudgee’s Alex Saint, Dubbo’s Pat Berryman and Josh Jasprizza and CSU Bathurst’s Lachlan Buckton.
West Wyalong’s Sharnah Stevens and Bathurst’s Mandy Scott also earned a nod in the women's sevens merit side, however they also have the chance to attend the University of New England’s AON 7s talent discovery tournament later this year.
- NSW COUNTRY COCKATOOS: Mahe Fangupo, Peter Fitzsimmons, Charlie French, Tom Green, Nick Hughes-Clapp, Chris Miller, Dan Ryan, Harry Webber, Lochie Robinson (Central West), Tom Baker, Takunda Chimwaza, Leighton Cowley, Sam Latu, Amos Leef, Dane Nethery, Tim Small, Jay Spencer, Tait-Tania Tuumuliileuao, Paul Tuala, Aisake Tuevu, Henry Yiull (Illawarra), Andrew Collins (North West Bushrangers), Ed Cordingly, Pat Keen, Chris Logan (Mid North Coast), Ben Damen, Sam Pearce, Daniel Rollinson (Far North Coast), Anthony Fuller, Jack Kelly, Ritchie Steele (Western Plains), Barcelona Lupematasila (Newcastle-Hunter), Marc Koteczky, Elekana Laupola, Maea Sekope, Ethan McInnes, Kevin McNamara (Central Coast)
- NSW COUNTRY COLTS: Pat Berryman, Lachlan Buckton, Nick Fisher, Hayden Goodall, Sam Greatbatch, Josh Jasprizza, Hayden Leopold, Alex Saint (Central West), Jack Allen, Will Archer, Jacob Barrett, Reece Bray, Dal Molin Harrison, Hone Edwards, Ethan Fowles, Caleb Hopping, Eli McCulloch, Beau Merrick, Lachlan Miller, Connor Mulhearn, Isaac Ulberg, Alex Vaughan, Ben Wood (Newcastle-Hunter), Reece Apollo, Nicholas Cracknell, Opeti Taufahema, Mani Tuigamala (Ilawarra), Will McDonald (Central Coast), Will Morley (North West Bushrangers)
- WOMEN’S SEVENS MERIT SQUAD: Bobbi Laws, Leilani Nathan, Maya Stewart, Tahlia Goldsmith, Britney Duff (Newcastle-Hunter), Lauren Linton, Greta Smith (Mid North Coast), Angelo Marando (Central Coast), Alahna Ryan (Western Plans), Sharnah Stevens, Mandy Scott (Central West), Teagan Miller (New England), Ashlee Knight, Rhiannon Boers, Shana Povey-Hyatt (Central North)