WHEN Harry Siejka signed with the Mudgee Dragons for season 2020, one of the games he was most looking forward to was playing against his former club Bathurst Panthers at Carrington Park.
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While COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the Group 10 senior competition and denied Siejka that chance, this Sunday the star five-eighth will line up at Carrington Park in a match he is just as excited about.
The former NRL talent will be guiding the Western Rams against the North Sydney Bears in the Presidents Cup. It will be a big moment for Siejka, his team-mates and Bathurst league fans.
"It's huge, it's massive for the area to get a foundation club out here. For the young kids that never went to Sydney, it's a really good test for them and is probably going to be a highlight of their career," Siejka said.
"I am excited, but it's more to play in Bathurst again. Like I played in the [pre-season] knockout, but other than that I haven't played there for years, so I'm pretty excited to play back at Carrington Park and it is exciting to do it for the Rams against North Sydney - it's a big occasion.
"It would be good to get a lot of people down there to have a look, North Sydney is a pretty big attraction. I know we haven't been going too good, but it's the sort of game you lift for."
Founded in 1908, the Bears have a rich league history. One of its former stars - Jason Taylor - is the coach of the Presidents Cup outfit, which sits second on the ladder with four wins through five rounds.
The Rams have done it tougher as they have battled older, more experienced and physically larger teams in the competition. They are yet to find a win, but Siejka feels they have done better than their record suggests.
"Everyone looks at wins and judges you off wins, but we've been in most games we've played," he said.
"A lot of it is the size difference, we've got a pretty small forward pack and do a lot of work defending and it sort of catches up with us towards the back end. I don't think we've been embarrassed in any game we've played, but we haven't found a way to win either which is frustrating.
"There are still positives, but it's hard. We are playing Sydney teams who have older boys and bigger boys who have been playing together. We are mostly made up of under 23s and get to train for 45 minutes the day before we play, it's tough.
"Other teams have had boys come down from NSW Cup and that Hills team we played in round one, they had two come back from NRL pre-season. So that's fair opposition for country kids who have got to make time to work."
Ahead of Sunday's match, the first a senior Western side has played at Carrington Park since their upset 50-12 win over Federation of Italia Rugby League Australia in 2017, there has been good news for the Rams.
They have been boosted by the inclusion of St Pat's captain-coach Zac Merritt, who will add size and experience to the forward pack, while Orange Hawks star Willie Heta will slot into the halves alongside Siejka.
The squad will also hold a training session on Wednesday night to help them prepare.
The gates will open at 11am with kick-off in the main game set for 2pm. St Pat's and Orange CYMS will act as the curtain-raiser, with their Western Youth League match to kick off at 12.55pm.
All spectators planning to attend must purchase a ticket.
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