Can you say impressive?
Group 10 coach Graeme Osborne named a gangbusters squad for this weekend’s Western divisional trials at Parkes’ Jock Colley Oval, a unit of 22 he’s certain can snap Group 11’s recent dominance and earn plenty of Rams jumpers in the process.
It’s a vastly different squad by Group 10’s standards, due to Country Rugby League changing the opens division of its Country Championships to an under-23 tournament. The Groups, naturally, followed suit with their representative sides.
Six Bathurst Panthers headline the 22-strong squad, which also features Orange CYMS talents Ryan Griffin and Cam Jones along with Hawks stars Jedd Kennedy, Ethan McKellar and Nathan Potts. It will be cut down to 18 before Saturday’s trial.
“It is an impressive group, isn’t it?” Osborne asked, rhetorically.
“The thing is there’s a lot of good, young guys who missed out too. Group 10 is in a very strong position in that regard, most of these guys have been playing [premier league] since they finished up in [under 18s] and have been playing good football too.
“It’s not going to be an easy job cutting the squad down to 18, but we have to do it obviously, I’m confident it’s going to be a side which can head over and beat Group 11.”
Osborne’s confidence is far from false hope too, 16 of the 22-man unit were named in Darren Jackson’s squad for Western’s February trial against the Newcastle Knights – which was ultimately cancelled – and a number of others featured in the Rams’ hefty pre-season program too.
Griffin, Jones and McKellar made the cut for that side which, like Group 10’s squad, was rife with Panthers players. Five made the cut, while Oberon’s Jackson Brien and 2016 premiership-winning Mudgee Dragon Nathan Orr featured too.
“There was a lot in that pre-season program and I’d suggest a few boys have their names pencilled into the Rams squad as it is, with a good performance that could turn into permanent ink,” Osborne said.
“Playing well and winning will have a big impact on that obviously and I’d think there’s a big chance for others to force their way in as well.”
With just one training session prior to the trials – on Wednesday night at Bathurst – Osborne said he won’t be instilling any groundbreaking game-plans into the group.
“I don’t think we’ll have them playing with too much structure, they’ll be able to throw the footy around. That’s one thing these competitions allow you to do, you can’t do heaps with one training session anyway,” Osborne said.
“The big thing we’ll be focusing on is exit sets, getting that right and making sure we’re playing in Group 11’s half.”
The side’s strength, no matter who gets cut, will undoubtedly be through the middle.
With the likes of Jones, McKellar, Potts, Panthers prop Jarrod Seager, Oberon’s Jake Dawe and Blayney duo Lochie Hobby and Raki Tukeke all in the mix, Group 10’s forward pack will be electric.
“There’s size, but it’s not the biggest pack in the world. What they are is mobile though, so we can use that to our advantage,” Osborne said.
Saturday’s trial against Group 11 kicks off at 2.50pm. The Woodbridge Cup and Castlereagh League sides will also play-off. The division trials also features under 18s and league tag.
- GROUP 10: Lochie Hobby, Raki Tukeke (Blayney Bears), Rick Nobes (Cowra Magpies), Ryan Griffin, Cam Jones (Orange CYMS), Nathan Potts, Ethan McKellar, Jedd Kennedy (Orange Hawks), Nathan Orr (Mudgee Dragons), Jake Dawe, Michael Ingwersen, Jackson Brien (Oberon Tigers), Jye Barrow, Jarrod Seager, Jedd Betts, Jake Betts, Blake Lawson, Nick Loader (Bathurst Panthers), Matt Ranse, Mitch Squire (St Pat’s), Keelan Bresac, Mitch Case (Lithgow Workies)