HE lifted the Richardson Shield last year and now Central North skipper Matt Schwager is hoping to get his hands on the Caldwell Cup.
The Kookaburras will in Armidale this weekend be chasing their first Caldwell Cup since 2001 and, with the squad they have assembled, are confident they can give it a good shake.
“We’ve got probably the best team we can pick out of the whole of Central North,” Schwager said.
Pretty much everyone coaches Tom Cullen and Hunter Harley asked committed to being involved.
That’s seen the return of a few old heads such as Moree’s Ben Colley and John Adams and Walcha’s Simon Newton.
They have only strengthened what (last year) was one of the strongest sides the zone has fielded for a few years. Schwager is one of 12 players backing up from last year’s campaign and is excited about the chance to play for the Caldwell Cup.
“It’s going to be a real test for us but we did a good job last year,” he said. “This year we’ve got to step up.”
They’ve drawn Newcastle Hunter first up but give themselves every opportunity of knocking them off. Schwager predicted it would be won up front and likes the look of the pack he’ll be playing behind.
“The backrow especially is very strong,” he said. Matt McDonnell, Colley and Matt Wannan make a formidable back three.
That’s not to dismiss the second row or front row, which are both strong too, Schwager said. Nor the backs. They have got some really good backs, he said, and if the forwards can provide them with good ball they should be able to do some damage.
He said the biggest difference this year was probably experience.
“Guys like Ben Colley and John Adams have played at a higher level (Country) before,” Schwager said. “They bring a lot of experience up front.”
“And guys like Joe deDassel. He’ll be great to bring on later in the game.”
He said playing a team like Newcastle, you’ve got to play pretty smart. That experience will help with that.
He expects that Newcastle will probably be fitter than them and said they just have to try to stick with them for the full 80 minutes.
“I think they’ll finish the game quite strongly,” he said. “Our defence will probably be key as well.”
CENTRAL NORTH OPENS
1 Josh Leys (Gunnedah), 2 Luke Findley (Narrabri), 3 John Adams (Moree), 4 Henry Curtin (Narrabri), 5 Mitch Wheaton (Tamworth), 6 Matt McDonnell (Narrabri), 7 Ben Colley (Moree), 8 Matt Wannan (vc) (Moree), 9 Matt Schwager (c) (Narrabri), 10 Ben Carrigan (Moree), 11 Tom Lynch (Narrabri), 12 Simon Newton (Walcha), 13 Soni Halanukonuka (Walcha), 14 Cameron Mitchell (Gunnedah), 15 Jake Packer (Narrabri), 16 Will Robinson (Barraba), 17 Sam Martin (Walcha), 18 Beau Brummell (Narrabri), 19 Joe de Dassel (Moree), 20 Jack Sharp (Narrabri), 21 Henri Knight (Narrabri), 22 Jeremy York (Barraba), 23 Jack Maunder (Narrabri), 24 Alex Corlis (Moree), 25 Heath Riggs (Moree).
CENTRAL NORTH COLTS
Dominic Whitney, Anthony Simpson, Hayden Griffiths, Morgan Phillips, Ben Robinson, Nick Sweeney, Jack Redfern, Nick McCrohan, Billy Urquhart, Dylan Lewis, Luke Klasen, Angus MacTavish, Harrison Pettit, Sam Dickson, Matt McRaa, Cameron Clout, Blake Clout, Stuart Honeysett, Russell Johnston.
NEW ENGLAND OPENS
1 Charlie French (St Alberts), 2 Joe Druce (c) (St Alberts), 3 Wilson Mackenzie (Robb), 4 James McKern (Armidale), 5 Greg Hill (Glen Innes), 6 Oliver Bartlett (St Alberts), 7 Liva Sili (Guyra), 8 William Archer (Robb), 9 William Chapman (Barbarians), 10 Dan Sweeney (St Alberts), 11 Harry Webber (St Alberts), 12 Navi Tiko (Armidale), 13 John Roberts (vc) (Armidale), 14 Dom Bower (Barbarians), 15 Daniel Ah-See (Armidale), 16 Peter Cumming (Armidale), 17 Richard Cumming (Armidale), 18 John Tiko (Armidale), 19 Sam Gates (Barbarians), 20 Angus Howard (St Alberts), 21 Jack King (St Alberts), 22 Alex Pay (St Alberts), 23 Samson Bai (Armidale), 24 Jack Thomas (St Alberts), 25 Brodie Rigby (Armidale).
NEW ENGLAND COLTS
1 Will Turner (St Alberts), 2 Andrew Leatham (Robb), 3 Keegan Size (St Alberts), 4 Tim Beare (Robb), 5 Sinclair Clinton (St Alberts), 6 Ben Carmichael (St Alberts), 7 Riley Hopwood (Armidale), 8 Sam Callough (Robb), 9 Brennan Czinner (Armidale), 10 Harry Wardle (St Alberts), 11 Allan Lewis (Barbarians), 12 Tom Fisher (St Alberts), 13 Liam Trout (Robb), 14 Steve Ford (Armidale), 15 Jesie Murphy (Armidale), 16 Jono Green (St Alberts), 17 Ian McLennan (Robb), 18 Sam Knight (St Alberts), 19 Darcy Glassock (Barbarians), 20 Nick Murphy (Armidale), 21 Charlie Redden (St Alberts), 22 Corey Stace (Armidale), 23 Ben Blyton (Robb), 24 Matt Williams (Armidale), 25 Angus McIntosh (Robb).