AN air of mystery surrounds the Central North line-up for this weekend’s NRMA Country Championships in Mudgee.
The squad named by coaches Ross Duncan and Josh Clift for the Kookaburras’ Caldwell Cup campaign features a number of debutants, some who are yet to play a game in the competition.
Walcha recruits Robbie Glen and Fred Kei are both in that boat but Duncan and Clift have liked what they’ve seen from them.
New Tamworth signings Wesley Rooney and Brendan Hunt have also been included in the 25.
Pirates utility back Jake Hartmann likewise is part of the squad but is under a cloud with a hamstring injury.
Injuries have already ruled out a few players, with Sam Clements, Mitch Wheaton, Chris Schmidt and Mac Clark-Dickson all taking knocks at the recent Armidale carnival.
They would have all been handy, and have left the lineout a bit shorter than Central North would have liked, Duncan said.
“We don’t have as many jumping options,” he said.
That’s not something they can’t get around though.
It is a changing of the guard with several of the players that have been involved in the past few years unavailable for various reasons.
“Eight of the 10 clubs are represented, which is great,” Duncan said.
Barraba and Moree are the only two clubs without players in the squad.
The Bulls disappointedly didn’t put anyone forward.
One of the things that stands out for Duncan, and that he particularly likes about the squad, is its ability to score points in the backs.
“We’ve got a mobile forward pack and have really got, with the players we’ve selected, a great opportunity to score points,” Duncan said.
“We’ve got players that can really ask questions of the defensive line.
“Hopefully the boys (forwards) can set a good platform for the backs to do what we know they’re capable of.”
There’s a few decisions to make about how exactly they’ll line up. Most of the backs can play at least two positions and well.
One of the more exciting potential combinations is Andrew Moodie and Brendan Hunt. As the squad has been named they’ll play at 10 and 12, respectively.
Jake Douglas and George Duddy particularly have also looked impressive through the trials.
The Kookaburras 20s also have injury concerns.
Jake Williams looks like he’s done his shoulder and could be out, co-coach Garry Walsh said.
They’ve already lost Inverell five-eighth Hunter Barnett. He did his ankle at Armidale.
It has forced a reshuffle, although who they put there is “still a point of contention”.
Not for want of options though.
“Do we soften nine to enhance the 10, or do we soften 15 to enhance 10,” Walsh said.
It is still a good-looking squad.
“It’s a pretty good forward pack. I’m really happy with it,” he said.
With the backs they’ve got there he’s also pretty excited about the style of football they can play.
SENIOR SQUAD: Angus Fraser, George Duddy, Daniel Blackman (Quirindi), Ryan Jackson, Dale Robinson, Daniel Burt (Scone), Josh Leys, Josh Howarth, James Perrett (Gunnedah), Robbie Glen, Fred Kei, Soni Halanukonuka, Sam Martin (Walcha), Blake Pollock, Joshua Stewart, Andrew Wynne, Andrew Moodie, Jake Douglas, Jake Hartmann (Pirates), Matt McDonnell, Lucas Findlay (Narrabr), Brendan Hunt, Alastair Doyle, Wesley Rooney (Tamworth), Saiki Malu Maea (Inverell).
U20s SQUAD: Will Robinson (Barraba), Mikey Carr, Tyler Gallienne, Eion O’Connor, Lachlan Cassidy, Zeb Buchanan, Oliver Thomson, Ned O’Neil-Shaw, Brendan Maxwell, Jono Bleinheim (Pirates), Darcy Barker, Harry Veith (captain), George Rixon, Troy Martin, Nick Foster (Tamworth), Tom Apthorpe (Inverell), Thomas Smart, Tom Vincient (Scone), Keegan Loughrey, Hamish Hocking (Gunnedah), Nathaniel Slater (Quirindi), Jake Williams (Moree).