Open rep clash back on after Western rubber stamps bumper fixture

CENTRE STAGE: Former Parkes Spacemen fullback Sam Dwyer could be one part of a scintillating Group 10 backline when Western's senior representative showcase returns in 2018.
CENTRE STAGE: Former Parkes Spacemen fullback Sam Dwyer could be one part of a scintillating Group 10 backline when Western's senior representative showcase returns in 2018.

It’s back.

Senior Group 10 and Group 11 sides will go head-to-head this year in the annual Western Rams Representative Cluster.

The region’s showpiece fixture was dumped in 2017 as both western groups formed under-23 sides, to line-up with the Country Rugby League’s decision to change the country championship to that age group.

The Groups’ under-23 outfits will still clash as Western looks to form a competitive Rams side to contest the country championship, but the open fixture will round the cluster out in 2018, enabling the best players in both competitions to go head-to-head.

Heading into 2018, it’ll mean the likes of Bathurst St Pat’s recruits Zac Merritt, Sam Dwyer and Brendon Tago, along with Oberon Tigers guns Josh Starling, Ben McAlpine and Tui Oloapu, Orange CYMS stars Tom Satterthwaite and Joe Lasagavibau and Orange Hawks captain-coach Willie Heta will all potentially play in the same Group 10 side.

More player movement is expected in Group 11 between now and the start of next season but a potential side could feature the likes of Dubbo CYMS stars Jyie Chapman, Kieran Cubby-Shipp, Alex Bonham and Jarryn Powyer while Forbes pair Jake Grace and Ben Maguire, Nyngan duo Jacob Neill and Reece Goldsmith would also be in contention.

Country Rugby League Western regional manager Peter Clarke said the demand for representative footy from players over the age of 23 was still there, with the game to be used as a selection tool for Western’s side to take on the Federation of Italia Rugby League Australia.

“As tough as it is, they love playing and they want more after it,” Clarke said 

“It’s fair to have a senior game … we’re still working out whether Castlereagh and Woodbridge will have teams though.”

The winner of that senior game will then earn the hosting rights for the Western Premiers Challenge, with the grand final winners of each competition to face off in September.

There was no open match this year due to the change to 23s but Group 11 is the reigning opens champion after winning the match in 2016.

In what was a dominant 38-18 victory to the Luke Thompson-captained Group 11 side, the smaller bodies and speed out wide made all the difference at Gilgandra’s McGrane Oval.

Under 23s players good enough to play an open level will be selected in the main game without hurting chances of country championship selection.

A Rams women’s team will contest a 13-a-side gala day on Saturday, February 10, which will act as a selection tool for the NSW Country women’s side.