HE'S lost his captain, a weapon on the wing and a star fullback, but Group 10 under 18 coach Matt Lawson is still backing his side to be the best in the west.
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Lawson was forced to make late alterations to his team which will meet Group 11 on Saturday after three of his big guns in lock Tom Lemmich, fullback Nick Murphy and winger Ryan Carroll were forced to withdraw due to other commitments.
Given all three played Western Rams this season, Lemmich was named as captain and Murphy picked up the Tom Nelson Medal for the best player in the Laurie Daley Cup, they're significant outs.
But Lawson said the replacements who have joined the side, Cowra centre Charlie Jeffries, St Pat's fullback Alex Davies and Bathurst Panthers forward Logan Dufty, were unlucky to miss initial selection.
"The guys that have come in were very, very close to being included in that initial squad, so it's not as though we were struggling, there's a lot of talent there that could've quite easily make the side any other time," Lawson said.
"Obviously we lose a bit from our backs without Murph and Ryan Carroll, both were Rams 18s players this year and Murph went on to play Country.
"So it is a big loss, but look take nothing away from the guys who have come in now, I'm confident in them."
The reshuffled line up sees Jacob Haeta switch to fullback while Jeffries now fills his spot in the centres.
Davies will wear the number five jumper left vacant by Carroll, while Toby Gibson has moved off the bench into starting lock.
Logan Dufty gets jumper 16.
Group 10 will be attempting to make it back-to-back wins over Group 11 after downing them 42-10 at Lithgow's Tony Luchetti Oval last year.
That was the first time since 2018 that Group 10 had won the under 18s clash with their Western Division rivals.
Many of the players who wore the sky blue in that match will again line up on Saturday and Lawson sees that as a real strength.
"Last year's side was a lot of bottom age sort of players and this year, looking at the squad now, there's very few bottom age players," he said.
"A lot of the guys from last year's 18s side are in this again. There are some first timers, one in particular Trae Fitzpatrick he's played his whole career without playing any rep footy, so he's finally got a crack.
"He's been very good for St Pat's this year, he's one those players who never goes away and just gives 100 percent in everything he does.
"But there are combinations there that go right back to under 12s across that side. I've been fortunately been involved with rep sides with these guys since under 12s.
"It's one of those things that we're fortunate that this group of players has always been together not only in club stuff, but with rep we've had that core group of players who have always been there which helps."
Familiar combinations, a big but mobile forward pack and speed to burn in the backs means Group 10 has some serious weapons right across the paddock.
But Lawson is well aware the same thing can be said of the Group 11 side. His players know it too.
"This year with the 18s playing in the crossover comp, they got exposed to different teams, different styles of footy, so now it's not much of an unknown," he said.
"We always know Group 11 aim up and are a very tough side, there are some very good footballers in that Group 11 squad.
"I'm expecting a rather tough game especially given how the 18s comp went, the grand final was an absolute cracker, so I think it should be a good day of footy."
Kick off in the under 18s clash, to be played in Parkes, is at noon.
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