WESTERN suffered a 34-18 loss against a classy Federation of Italia Rugby League Australia outfit in Bathurst on Saturday, but assistant coach Kip Maranda is confident the Rams are on the right path.
Both sides used the Carrington Park clash as a means of viewing players with potential headed into, for the Azzurri, the 2017 World Cup and, for Maranda’s Rams, next year’s Country Championship.
On that note, FIRLA’s Christian Bate and Blake Cavelarro gave Italian selectors plenty to think about in the lead-up to next year’s World Cup, the latter scoring 22 of his side’s points in a stunning display from the halfback.
For the hosts forwards Luke Thompson, Simon Osborne and Brent Seager poured through a mountain of work in the middle of the field and Parkes fullback Sam Dwyer was brilliant, earning the FIRLA’s vote as player of the game.
Seager’s fellow Bathurst Panther, Greg Behan, was solid off the bench.
Naturally disappointed after the loss, Maranda said it was important to look at the positives out of a fixture designed to give promising young stars Rams debuts.
Forbes’ Mitch Burke, Lithgow’s Mitch Case and Orange CYMS pivot Dom Maley were three of those players. The trio drew praise.
“There’s plenty of good players around, we’re asking them to put their hand up when we have training and to bring the right attitude,” Maranda said.
“We’re not here for one game, we want to make friendships out of it and build to win the Country Championships and get back into that tier one where we should be.”
Western drew first blood against FIRLA, Forbes’ Ben Maguire muscling his way over from close range to gift the hosts a 6-0 lead.
Ethan Natoli hit back for the visitors shortly after, but a crafty Jacob Neill grubber for himself on the half-hour mark edged the Rams to a 12-6 advantage.
Leaning on a game revolving around lightning quick footwork and superb support play, the Western Suburbs Magpies number seven scored two tries in the lead-up to half-time to edge the Italians to an 18-12 lead.
The FIRLA’s Canterbury Bulldogs connection of Josh Bergamin and hooker Daniel Petralia orchestrated the opening try of the second half, the former scoring under the posts, to secure a 12-point buffer.
Maley crossed in the 58th minute to make a game of the final quarter, but Cavelarro and Natoli iced the win with tries in the final 15 minutes for the Azzurri.
Having been part of a winning Country Championship campaign with Western in 2003, Maranda knows the key to success at a representative level is composure.
Western lacked a touch in that area against the Italians.
“Our completions probably let us down, that was probably a big thing that hurt us which is probably the same thing that let us down at Narellan,” he said.
“It’s something for us to work on, and probably a good opportunity to get a few debutantes in there to have a look at.
“We’ve got a big area to cover and for the players to mix quite quickly, that’s Darren [Jackson] and mine job and the rest of our coaching staff.”