Western Division legend Darren Jackson says he’s keen to continue his tenure in charge of the Rams’ under 23s side heading into 2018.
Jackson has coached the division’s top side for two seasons, but was initially tasked with rebuilding the Western Rams culture with an open side in 2016 before Country Rugby League changed the structure of its open championship and capped the age at under 23s the year after.
That change didn’t bode well for Western in 2017 either, Jackson’s side suffering a demoralising 62-0 thrashing at the hands of Monaro in round one of the championship at Cowra.
Jackson will coach Western against the Federation of Italian Rugby League Australia (FIRLA) at Bathurst’s Carrington Park on Saturday and says he hopes the weekend’s clash with the Azzurri won’t be his last with the Rams.
“Definitely. It’s just time permitting. I’m keen, but I also know these jobs aren't given out. It’s a fairly decent interview process,” Jackson said.
“It’s still up in the air. (Country Rugby League Western regional manager Peter Clarke) and I have to talk about it.”
After a successful staging of the Rams versus FIRLA games at Bathurst last season, Western will again take on the Azzurri at Carrington Park on Saturday.
For Jackson, the game gives him the opportunity to work with players of an open age.
But he’s already keen to see how some of the under 20s players fare when handed an opportunity as he looks to continue working with some of the region’s best young talent, too.
“There’s some guys in the open side that are still eligible to play under 23s next year, but we’ll give a couple of the 20s guys a shot, too, off the bench,” he said.
“The side’s a little bit different, especially this time of the year.
“There’s guys unavailable with end-of-season trips and a few others enjoying the break.
“We’ve picked the best side possible.”
A side that’s strength no doubt lays up front, there’s serious size among the Rams’ big men and plenty of skill to go with it.
“Definitely, I’m a big Brent Seager fan,” Jackson said, the Bathurst Panthers prop one of two very experienced bookends up front.
“And Chris Bamford, I’ve heard a lot about him. It’ll be good to see how the frontrow goes.
“It’s a limited preparation. We’ve got one training run (on Friday) at Carrington, then play Saturday. It’s just about keeping it simple.
We’ve got one training run (on Friday), then play Saturday. It’s just about keeping it simple.Western coach Darren Jackson
“That old cliche will be key, we’ll look to play mistake-free footy.”
Panthers gun Jeremy Gordon is a late withdrawal from the side, his place taken by Jackson Brien at centre.
Brien’s Oberon teammate Tui Oloapu has come on to the bench.
WESTERN: 1 Sam Dwyer (Parkes Spacemen), 2 Keelan Bresac (Lithgow Workies), 3 Blake Lawson (Bathurst Panthers), 4 Jackson Brien (Oberon Tigers), 5 Tom Satterthwaite (Orange CYMS), 6 Warren Williams (Cowra Magpies), 7 Chad Porter (Parkes Spacemen), 8 Brent Seager (Bathurst Panthers), 9 Luke Carpenter (Oberon Tigers), 10 Chris Bamford (Orange CYMS), 11 Blake Seager (Bathurst Panthers), 12 Brandon Tago (Parkes Spacemen), 13 Todd Munn (Mudgee Dragons); 14 Jake Betts (Bathurst Panthers), 15 Brad James (Gulgong Terriers), 16 Jordan Pope (Parkes Spacemen), 17 Tui Oloapu (Oberon Tigers)