Central West colours suit Croucher just fine

RUGBY UNION

By MARK RAYNER

He's been a regular and consistent performer for CSU for several years, but in 2010 Charlie Croucher also looks right at home in a Central West Blue Bulls jersey.

The forward has played for the Blue Bulls on and off over the past years, including in under 20s, but his form in the first four trial matches of the season have been good enough to earn him a starting spot for the opening game of these Country Championships against New England in Orange tomorrow.

Croucher said he is enjoying his time with the team and the opportunity to line-up with some of the best players in the region.

"It's always great to get the chance to represent Central West," Croucher said.

"It's nice to be playing with those senior guys and to be able to learn off Matt Waterford and Heamani Lavaka has been great. It's been phenomenal to sponge off them and they are a great bunch of guys."

Last year the Blue Bulls dropped out of the Caldwell Cup race with a semi-final loss against Illawarra and while they were able to secure third place with a play-off win against the Central Coast, there was still a feeling that the side under achieved.

Croucher feels that the 2010 side could make up for that loss by taking out the Country Championships with the level of talent in the side.

"Without doubt [we can win the title]. If you listen to those who were in the side last year they feel they had the potential to win it and see it as a missed opportunity and this is one of the most talented and competitive sides we have had, so we are a very good chance," he said.

"One of the most pleasing things to come out of the trials is that we won all four of them and that to win a couple of those we had to score tries in the last five minutes and that shows that we can do well in tight situations."

There is strong representation from both Bathurst teams with the Bulldogs having seven in tomorrow's starting line-up and the students three.

"From a Bathurst point of view it's great because you have so many Bulldogs in the side and you also have [some] for CSU.

"It should also make it easier to get combinations right.

"As well as getting the opportunity to play with Matt Waterford and Heamani Lavaka, it's good to be on the same team as Chris Plunkett and Jono Cody rather than having them run at you all the time."

Croucher is a definite veteran of CSU, a club where most players only play for the three or four years that they attend university before moving on.

While he has given up the captaincy and presidency of the club, he will be back as a player in 2010 and looking forward to the opportunity to right the wrongs of last year.

"It was disappointing to finish the season with three loses and end my time with the club. I wasn't expecting to be back this year so it's good," he said.

"For the first time since I've been here I will play in the same front row with Hiram Brookes and Alex McKendry, so that provides a bit of stability."

CENTRAL WEST: 1 Alex McKendry (CSU Bathurst), 2 Charles Croucher (CSU Bathurst), 3 Heamani Lavaka (c-Parkes), 4 Matt Waterford (Bathurst), 5 Dean Matthews (Dubbo 'Roos), 6 Wayne Miller (Orange City), 7. Jono Cody (Bathurst), 8 Jason Hopkins (Forbes), 9 Ryan Pratten (Narromine), 10. Anthony Begg (vc-Orange City), 11 Scott Burgess (Narromine), 12. Paul Miller (Bathurst), 13 Luke Brown (Narromine), 14 Tim Kaufusi (Bathurst), 15 Luke Harding (Narromine). Bench: 16. Hayden Tidswell (Bathurst), 17 Andrew Donaldson (Bathurst), 18 Jonathan Rathbone (Dubbo Rhinos), 19 Scott Johnson (Bathurst), 20 Adam Rayner (Mudgee), 21 CJ Smythe (Narromine), 22 Nick Hughes-Clapp (CSU Bathurst).