HE’S one of the leaders of the pack and this weekend he’ll be the leader of the pride.
St Alberts skipper Sam Clements will lead New England in its Richardson Shield defence.
Clements was there for last year’s success and this year’s NRMA Country Championship campaign will be his fourth for the Lions after one with the Colts and two previous with the seniors.
It could potentially be his last too.
He finishes up his studies at the end of the year and would love to add some more silverware to the collection.
“I’ve been pretty lucky actually .
“The year I played with Colts we won the plate, then last year the shield,” Clements said.
The squad for this weekend includes nine of that successful side, and is one that Clements believes can go back to back.
“We’re going to be really strong,” Clements said.
“(But) There’s going to be a lot of strong sides.”
That said the Lions have often exceeded external expectations. Last year they gave eventual champions Newcastle a real fright in the first round before beating Central West – a zone with a much bigger player reach – in the shield final.
Clements has been named at six, but is capable of playing pretty much anywhere in the pack – with the exception of the front row.
He started off in the second row but has in more recent seasons played number eight for Albies.
That was where he figured for the Lions – quite effectively too – in their trial against Central North two weeks ago, but with Mike TeMoana available he shifts to the side.
With Dave Healey then at seven they’ll make for a dynamic backrow, and will be one of the Lions strengths, along with their quick backs.
In Lachie Perkins at the back and Albies flyers Pete Weis and James Perrett on the flanks they have plenty of finishing ability.
Keith Ellis will also be a handful in the midfield, as he showed against the Kookaburras.
“He’s obviously a very strong runner in the midfield,” Clements said.
He’ll form a strong combination with Charlie Lockyer in the centres.
“Chuck’s really strong defensively,” Clements said.
“When we (Albies) won the premiership the key was we didn’t let many tries in.”
Lockyer was a big part of that.
“With Keith and Chuck there not much will be getting through,” he said.
The Lions don’t know who they play yet. That will be determined from the earlier semi-finals.
They’ll play the best loser out of those.
“We’ve got a really good draw,” Clements said.
“We play at three o’clock after the teams have already played a game.”
As well as being fresher it will also give them the chance to have a good look at their opposition.