WESTERN Province coaches were impressed by what they saw when the Junior Gold Cup (JGC) 17s hopefuls were put through their paces at Gunnedah on Sunday.
Over 100 budding young rugby players descended on Gunnedah Rugby Park to trial for the Northern Bushrangers 15s and Western Province 17s squads.
The formation of Western Province follows a zonal restructure of the 17s competition to try to create a stronger link to the NSW-based National Rugby Championship (NRC) clubs.
Each of the six sides is aligned with one of the four NRC sides and will wear the same jerseys as their respective one.
Western Province will be associated with the NSW Country Eagles and comprise players from Central North, Central West and Western Plains.
New England will meanwhile join up with Far North Coast and Mid North Coast to play as Northern Province.
ARU General Manager Pathways and Performance Ben Whitaker said last month when the changes were announced it was good for Australian Rugby’s pathway.
“The clearer link NSW Rugby has made with their JGC centres and the NRC teams is only going to strengthen the talent pathway in NSW and ultimately the national Pathway to Gold,” Whitaker said.
“Participating players will be able to experience a genuine link with their NRC teams, further strengthening the connection of fans to the growing NRC competition.
“It will also provide a clear stepping stone on the path to the NSW Waratahs and potentially the Wallabies.”
Sunday’s trial was a promising starting point for Western Province.
“We had over 80 kids trialling and the quality was good,” North West development manager Garry Walsh said.
“Jimmy Grant was tickled pink.”
He was referring to Eagles general manager James Grant.
The former Wallaby will coach the Western Province side, assisted by, among others, Tamworth’s Tony Mills as the backs coach.
It was full-on for the four hours of the trial.
They started off with some drills, which they were scored on.
“They do three different drills, and are assessed on those drills,” Walsh said.
“From there they went and did some specific backs and forwards work.”
That was followed by some cross-field 7s before finishing with some 15-a-side games.
It was a tough task with all the talent on show but, from the trials, Grant and his fellow selectors have named a 40-strong squad to go down to Sydney for the first training camp in two weeks’ time.
That’ll be at Eastern Suburbs rugby club.
Following the weekend camp the 25 to play in the JCG will be finalised, and they’ll be given a strength and conditioning program to follow between then and when they reconvene in early February.
For the 15s, Sunday was their second trial following an initial trial at TAS last month.
“We just wanted another look at those boys,” Walsh said.
Jeff Watt and Daniel Bowcock are again guiding them after coaching them last year.
Western Province 17s: Bo Abra, Ben Anau, Ryan Baker, Tom Baker, Charlie Bible, Billy Carberry, Tim Cushan, Jack Davis, Nick Fisher, George Fletcher, Donny Freeman, Kyle Gibson, Sam Gray, Logan Griffiths, Brandon Humphries, Matthew Jackman, Jack Jones, Aidan Kelso, Sam Laurie, Lachlan Linley, Isaac Mackay, William Morley, Doughal O’Reilly, Nasser Otutahu, James Pearson, Felix Quinn, Fraser Robertson, Connor Robinson, Sam Rooney, Fletcher Rose, Milton Smith, Nick Smith, Damon Steel, Iai Taupeamuhu, Joel Thomas, Jack Thurtell, Lochie Urquhart, Hunter Ward, Lachlan Wheeler, Yool Yool.