Saturday wasn't the bumper, all-action first training run Western Rams coach Cameron Greenhalgh had expected but that doesn't mean his confidence has taken a hit ahead of this year's country championships.
The first get-together for the Rams' senior men's outfit was at Manildra on the weekend but the pouring rain, combined with a number of players being unavailable this time of year, meant Greenhalgh couldn't put his troops through their paces as much as he would have liked.
But after receiving plenty of enthusiasm and interest from players across the region in recent weeks and seeing the group of roughly 15 at Manildra really put in, the coach feels he and the squad is in a good place.
"A couple are unavailable through work or holidays that time of year but I'm still pretty confident we'll have a very strong side," Greenhalgh said.
"There's size, mobility, skill, and some brains as well. It's going to be tough fitting it into a side."
Roughly 30 players are part of the initial squad.
While the names won't be officially released until the final squad is locked in ahead of the championships opener against the Monaro Colts on February 28, it's believed there is a strong Group 11 presence.
Greenhalgh singled out Alex Ronayne for praise and he is one of a number of Macquarie Raiders who signalled their interest to wear the green and white this season, with the likes of powerful forwards Jack Kavanagh, Oliver Gordon, Nick Harvey, and Rob Mafi also expected to be in the running.
"He (Ronayne) captained Western against France a couple of years ago and he's jumping out of his skin at the moment," Greenhalgh said.
"It's fellas like that, who are leaders and give their all, that's what I'm after for this team."
Players like Mudgee half and former NRL player Harry Siejka, someone Greenhalgh describes as a key player with a "good, steady head", were part of the Western side which contested the Presidents Cup last year but for many in the squad the championships could be the first matches since 2018.
The coach's son, Nick, is another likely to push for a start but the race for a halves spot will be one of a number of intriguing battles given the likes of Siejka, Orange Hawks star Willie Heta, and Parkes' Chad Porter are in the mix.
The competition for a place in the forward pack will also be fierce given the quality of the Macquarie contingent, and talent and strength Jed and Jake Betts of Bathurst Panthers, Ethan McKellar, Joey Hobby, and Luke Thompson all possess.
Wellington flyer Will Lousick, Mitch Andrews of Forbes, and the ever-reliable Jackson Brien are among those believed to be in contention for the backline.
"Quality players are going to miss out," the coach said.
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