With their preparation complete following Sunday’s final training session Central West’s focus is now solely on next month’s tour-proper, with the week-long trip to New Zealand shaping as a chance for a number of the group to push their claims for a NSW Country Rugby Union Championship berth.
More than a dozen of the Blue Bulls’ side that was beaten by Illawarra in last year’s top-tier, Caldwell Cup decider won’t be on the tour including Orange Emus’ Tom Green, Cowra’s Chris Miller and Parkes’ Dan Ryan, all of whom went on to earn NSW Country jerseys in 2018.
While the touring group’s depth takes a substantial hit as a result Central West coach Dean Oxley isn’t too concerned with that, he’s seen enough at the two, five-hour long training sessions to suggest those called-up for the tour in place of the unavailable stars might make his life tough ahead of country week.
He’s certainly encouraging them to rise to the challenge anyway and, hopefully, mount pressure on the incumbents ahead of this year’s Tamworth-hosted country week tournament in June.
“If we get the best Central West side on the paddock at country week, we win the tournament in my opinion,” Oxley said, saying the foundation has now been put in place to do just that.
“The guys who stood up at Warren against Newcastle-Hunter last year have some credit in the bank, but we won’t hold a candle for anyone. There is a chance for guys on this tour to displace some of the faces we’ve come to know well and we’ll be picking the best, in-form players for country week.
“We’ll get a lot more from a tour than a tournament because we’ll be living and breathing rugby together as a group for a week. The unavailable guys will need to be playing well for their clubs because that and the training sessions we’ll host will be their chance to continue pushing their claims.
“For me as a coach, it’s all very exciting. With his touring group and the unavailable guys we’ll have a pool of 40 or 45 players to pick from which is an exciting level of depth.”
Central West land in New Zealand on Sunday, March 3 before a two-hour training session the following day.
On Wednesday the men’s group faces Canterbury University before a a second, two-hour training session on Thursday and then clashes with High School Old Boys and Prebbleton on Saturday.
The women’s side faces High School Old Boys’ equivalent, while the Blue Bulls will be split into two teams that afternoon and face both opposition.
- CENTRAL WEST TOURING SQUAD: (Women) Sarah Archer, Courtney Auld, Davina Cooke, Roxanna Dougall, Rebecca Eastaway, Amie Fazekas, Amanda Ferguson, Krystal Fyfe, Kim Fyfe, Kate Gullifer, Nicole Jordan, Helen Limn, Jacky Lyden, Lilly-Ann Mason, Louise McCabe, Em McDonald, Harriet Messner, Rita Palm, Nicole Schneider, Mandy Scott, Kenesha Stevens, Sharnah Stevens, Milika Tuinakavaudra, Edwina Ulberg, Mel Waterford, Claire Woolmington; (Men) Craig Campbell, Mahe Fangupo, Matt Findlay, Nick Fisher, Peter Fitzsimmons, Charlie French, Matt Fuller, Brenton Gibson, Sam Greatbatch, Mark Grivas, Jarrod Hall, George Hancock, Joel Harper, Lachie Harris, Dave Jessiman, Hamish Kaveney, Shahid Khalfan, Nathan Langilangi, Ben Lenehan, Hayden Leopold, Tom Macleay, Shaun McHugh, Adam Miles, Mitch Rixon, Justin Mobbs, Joe Nash, Will Oldham, Harrison Peacock, Josh Peffer, George Quigley, Mathew Randall, Ben Ryan, Aaron Seaman, Josh Tremain, Alex Weal, Harry Webber, Zac White
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