Western Division’s 2016 Country Championships campaign will have a distinct Group XI flavour, with 10 players from last Saturday’s victorious squad named in coach Darren Jackson’s squad to meet Southern Division at Camden on May 21.
Parkes pair Sam Dwyer and Brandon Tago will be joined by Dubbo CYMS duo Jyie Chapman and Colby Pellow who return after maiden campaigns in 2015.
The side also includes Nyngan’s Jacob Neill and Reece Goldsmith, Forbes’ Ben McGuire and Jake Grace, Wellington ace Kotoni Staggs and Narromine’s Luke Thompson.
Parkes prop Jordan Pope was to be named in the squad, however he suffered a broken hand in Group 11’s 38-18 win over Group 10 on Saturday and had to be replaced.
Group 10 has seven representatives in the squad - Bathurst Panthers duo Brent Seagar and Blake Lawson, as well as Warren Williams (Cowra), Simon Osborne (Orange CYMS), Riccie Arriola (Oberon), Todd Munn (Mudgee) and Brendan West (Lithgow).
Gilgandra’s Ash Hazelton also made the squad after impressing in the Castlereagh League Knockout and performing well against Woodbridge Cup on Saturday.
“There's a good mix there. It’s a young side with plenty of ability and they are all fit and firing at the start of the season,” Jackson said.
“We’ve named 18 players in the squad and we will work out the make-up of the final team closer to May 21.
“There’s still three competition games and some training sessions in between.
“Group 11 impressed me on Saturday and that is why they got the number of guys in there that they did.
“Reece Goldsmith was Man of the Match in my eyes and the back three of Sam Dwyer, Kotoni Staggs and Riccie Arriola were the busiest and most dangerous in the selectors’ eyes.
“I thought Brent Seager had an enormous game for Group 10 as well. He's a prop who got through probably 65 minutes of work and was probably their best player so he picked himself.”
Jackson will put his players through their paces at a training session at Dubbo’s Caltex Park this Saturday, with two further sessions being planned for Molong on May 7 and May 14 prior to the squad leaving for Camden on May 20.
Hellbent on turning around a period that has seen the Rams struggle to make it past the first round of the championships, Jackson has rewarded those who have put in the hard yards through the pre-season.
“We have had extended squad training and a trial and the guys that put the work in there have been rewarded. They have shown us they want to be a part of this,” Jackson said.
“We have got an eye to the future and hopefully the youth we have in this squad can be the core of a group that stays together for the next few years and helps turn Western back into a force.”
Jyie Chapman (Dubbo CYMS), Colby Pellow (Dubbo CYMS), Sam Dwyer (Parkes), Brandon Tago (Parkes), Ben McGuire (Forbes), Jake Grace (Forbes), Jacob Neill (Nyngan), Reece Goldsmith (Nyngan), Kotoni Staggs (Wellington), Luke Thompson (Narromine), Warren Williams (Cowra), Simon Osborne (Orange CYMS), Brent Seager (Bathurst Panthers), Blake Lawson (Bathurst Panthers), Todd Munn (Mudgee), Brendan West (Lithgow), Riccie Arriola (Oberon), Ash Hazelton (Gilgandra).