THEY have worked hard in some gruelling training sessions, now the junior Western Rams will get a chance to see how that effort pays off in a match situation when they take on the Northern Tigers in a trial this Saturday.
Hungry for success in both the under 18s Laurie Daley Cup and the Andrew Johns Cup under 16s competitions, the Rams players began their preparations in December with a pair of 90 minute training sessions.
A camp at Lake Burrendong followed and while both 18s coach Kurt Hancock and 16s mentor Tony Tony Woolnough have since had to work around problems created by COVID-19 - last Saturday's planned trial against Riverina being cancelled - both are still happy with the progress.
"Burrendong was excellent. It was a fair bash-up but they were outstanding, that is probably one of the best camps we've held at Burrendong as far as the 16s and 18s' attitude went," Hancock said.
"The boys have set goals and have set some standards as well and both of those are pretty high, so we just want to make sure that we play to those standards and try to achieve those goals, we need to stick to our standards on the weekend.
"I think they're all just jumping out of their skins to play footy."
The Rams will meet the Northern Tigers in the fifth round of the NSW Rugby League competitions, so Saturday's trial games at Denman will be a good litmus test for the squads.
The Tigers made last season's Laurie Daley final after downing the Western side 16-10 in the semi-finals, while in the Andrew Johns Cup neither made the finals but the Rams beat them 20-16 in their round match.
It won't just be the 16 and 18 Rams in action either, the under 17s development squad will also get game time against the Northern Tigers and an under 16s Bulldogs development side.
"We've got a number of 17-year-olds who are pretty close to making our 18s squad and they're going to play in a development game. They'll play the the Bulldogs and the Tigers, so that game will be split up," Hancock said.
"It will be a good test for them, they'll get a bit of exposure there playing against a Sydney club. As much as I want the 17-year-olds who are with me at the moment to play 18s, I think it's really important that they don't miss out on that exposure."
After this Saturday's trials there will be a camp at Warren the following weekend to finish off the Rams' preparation.
The final selections will come following that camp, but Hancock said that all players who have been part of squads thus far are being told they should expect to see game time.
It is in part due to the ever-present threat of COVID-19, but also part of an aim to create camaraderie and cohesion amongst all the young Rams.
"We've told all our boys in the 16s and 18s that are in that 25 at the moment, I can see ourselves using that whole 25 with COVID going around, so we've told them if they are not in that first game they've got to stay mentally ready and physically ready," Hancock said.
"We've told them when they get their chance to make it count. It's going to be a real team and club environment this year.
"The 16s and 18s, before the COVID stuff, had been doing a lot together. I know the 18s have set some really high standards in and around their behaviour and trying to be positive role models for the 16s.
"I didn't have anything to do with those goals as a coach, but I'm really happy they've set them."
The Rams will begin their bid for Laurie Daley and Andrew Johns Cup glory on February 6 when meeting the Illawarra South Coast.
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