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Referee Numbers the Final Frontier for Central West Rugby

By Vittorio Travan

The growth of Central West Rugby is undeniable, but finding career referees is the next step in securing the long-term future of rugby in the region. Despite celebrating a renaissance under a 2018 competition restructure, there is now a real push to find and nurture the next generation of rugby match officials.

With only six of the region’s referees born after 1990, plans are underway to address the growing age gap. The Central West Rugby Union Referee’s Association (CWRURA) have only 48 referees registered for active roles this season.

With three of the six referees born after 1980 still in high school, they are the only identified talent looking to rejuvenate the Association. In a recent board meeting, earlier in May the CWRURA identified a need to address the issue, by encouraging talent identification through the junior systems.

Ian Robertson, Cowra Eagle’s President and CWRURA member says by securing and identifying young referees, rugby in the region will be in safe hands. He said, “We just want to offer an opportunity for these young kids to see some exceptional rugby from the best seat in the house.”

“There is a real need to fix this, as without true talent identification of young local refs in the region, we could face an interesting situation,” Mr. Robertson said.

Under the current scheme Central West Juniors appoints all referees to juniors matches on a club to appoint basis. Despite all games being filled for juniors matches this is not always the case for seniors and there is a need to progress this talent into the seniors ranks.

The proposed scheme will see the unification of referees in the juniors and seniors’ system that will widen the resources of available referees. Mr. Robertson says by pooling all referees under the one banner, it will help ensure the longevity of refereeing in the region.

“We don’t want to lose anyone from rugby. We don’t want to lose players, referees, volunteers, coaches or administrators. So, we need to make sure we have the right pathways in place to ensure no one is lost,” Mr Robertson said.

From left to right: Andrew Lees, Angus Gardner (top), Will Houston (bottom) [Sourced: Rugby Week, Rugby Referee.net. and Rugby Australia]

The sentiment was reinforced by Alex Richards, Referee Education Coordinator for NSW Rugby, who says schemes like the Rugby Australia School Scholarship are in place to address this issue. The scholarship selects school level referees from right across Australia who have been identified by either their local schools or referee associations.

The program has developed the likes of Angus Gardner, Will Houston and Andrew Lees who have gone on to referee at Super Rugby and International level. The scheme is just one the avenues the CWRURA sees as a key to keeping young referees involved with the game and exposing local talent to representative pathways.

This year Kinross Wolaroi referee Fraser Robertson landed a spot in the Rugby Australia School Student Scholarship (SSS), continuing years of country referees who have been identified through the scheme. Through the scholarship Robertson was involved in high level referee coaching, meetings with Super Rugby referee teams and a specialized scrum school held by NSW Rugby.

Fraser Robertson (in orange) taking charge of the Stanford v Kings 16As game earlier this month

Similarly, Jamie McGregor, Match Official Manager for Community Rugby for Rugby Australia, said these program aim to curve the drop off of in involvement when kids leave school. He says the program is aimed at giving young referees the right push to help them reach the heights they want to achieve.

McGregor said, “Every year there are recipients who represent the country regions and if they stick with refereeing we have found within a few years they will be refereeing at the top level in their country zones within a few years.”

He said the SSS scheme along with the representative pathway of NSW Country Referees, promote an experience that can attract students and keep them refereeing once they leave school. It’s the experience, excitement and the range of opportunity available to referees that has McGregor excited.

McGregor said, “We have a large base of school referees and we are hoping these programmes encourage referees to continue with their talent once they finish school.”

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Women ready to reclaim the Country Rugby throne

By Vittorio Travan

Warren better be ready for some running women’s rugby because the Central West Blue Bulls Women’s side is raring to go.

Despite no proper game time as a squad and a new mix of players, captain Mandy Scott says her side is ready to become back to back NSW Country Rugby champions.

In the inaugural setting of the 2018 women’s sevens championship, Scott says her teams has the whole package to ensure they return as champions. In her opinion, the squad is ready to run riot at the breakdown and scrap for the loose ball in order to capitalize on the genuine speed in the outside backs.

“Our backs are just absolute weapons, they are just so knowledgeable and fast,” said Scott.

Mandy Scott, Blue Bulls Women’s captain, in action for the Bathurst Bulldogs [Left] Source: Supplied

Despite only five players returning to defend the 2017 championship victory, Scott added the mix of new players has only added to her confidence in the squad. The addition of Cootamundra flyer Louise Raleigh has the captain particularly excited to see what Raleigh can unleash at the country championships.

“She is just a real unknown when she is in open space and I’m actually really excited to see what she can produce when we give her that quick ball,” she said.

With the intent to play positive running rugby, Scott said the talent the squad possess around the breakdown and in open spaces will ensure they have a presence at every contest. “We just want to play some attractive rugby, and we are going out there with an intent to play for not only ourselves but also the coaches who put in so much for us,” she added.

Praise for the efforts of all the support staff who established such an inviting and amazing atmosphere could not be over stated, with the squad ready for absolutely anything when they arrive at Warren. The efforts of Alistair Scott as team manager along with co-coaches Greg Horton, Tristan Buttenshaw and Tuma Aifaka have all had a positive influence in how the squad are approaching the championships.

“They just take so much pride in their coaching role which has a real flow on to us as a team,” she said.

For the side to return as double champions, Central West will have to account for Western Plains, Central Coast and Central North who accompany them in Pool A before they even contemplate the semi finals. While over in Pool B Mid North Coast, New England, Newcastle-Hunter and Far North Coast will battle it out for berths into the semi finals.

Scott said the side is simply aiming to repay the time and effort everyone has put in to supporting their journey so far, but added they are going their with one main goal.

“We are going there to return as back to back champions. We want that accolade of being the best women’s NSW country rugby side,” she said.

The Central West side will start their campaign against Western Plains at 10am on Saturday, with the semi-finals and final to be played on Sunday.

CENTRAL WEST Women’s Squad: Sharnah Stevens, Kenesha Stevens, Eden Heke, Kyrstal Fyfe (West Wyalong Redbacks), Amie Fazekas, Roxy Dougall (Temora Tuskers), Courtney Currie (Orange City Lions), Helen Limm (Mudgee Wombats), Mandy Scott, Alyza Doulis (Bathurst Bulldogs), Louise Raleigh (Cootamundra Tri-Colours), Tanielle Michael (Cowra Eagles)

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Blue Bulls say friendship will win them the Caldwell Cup

By Vittorio Travan

After three and a half months, the Central West Blue Bulls are ready to unleash and give the 2018 NSW Country Championships a real shake up.

Central West Blue Bulls Captain Chris Miller. Source: Supplied

Cowra stalwart Chris Miller has the honour of captaining the side this year and said the camaraderie of the squad is next level. “It’s second to none, the heart of the squad has this belief that I have never seen before.”

The team features damaging players right across the park, with an arsenal of 26  players ready to hit Warren with one clear objective.

“The forwards are our real strength, but if we can get a real roll on we want the ball to sing. Our backs have got a license to use the ball and we intend to capitalise on our genuine talent out wide,” Miller said.

But it is the real old school approach, that Miller says has the squad ready for a big tournament. “It’ a real head down, backside up attitude that Dean has brought in,” he said that has brought a real belief.

The effort to ensure the squad gels quickly has been a real focus for their coach Dean Oxley. The real sense of pride has been evident right across the squad, which has seen friendships form right from the first training session.

“All the coaching staff have just helped us a collective. Each time we come together we are getting better and better,” Miller added.

Former Wallabies Legend Michael Lyons putting the Blue Bulls through some drills earlier in the year. Source: Supplied

The added knowledge from training sessions run by Wallabies legend Michael Lyons gave the squad some much needed knowledge around close quarter contact. Lyons influence did not go unnoticed, with Miller saying although it was only a small thing it will have a huge impact on how the squad will view impact heading into the championships.

“He taught us how to properly prepare for the impact both in attack and in defence. He also showed how to properly evade in those close quarter contact situations which will be extremely helpful.”

But it is also the added work by Blue Bulls manager Angus Wilson, newly introduced Central West Rugby CEO Matthew Tink and all the sponsors that are helping out the team, that has Miller proud to represent the region.

He along with the squad know that an impressive showing at Warren can contribute to the rebirth of rugby interest that is emerging in the central west. Admitting it would be exciting to return as champions, Miller had to temper his ambition but admitted the excitement is undeniable.

“The championship would just be the icing on the cake as we already have overcome the first major hurdle, by forming tight friendships amongst the team” he said.

But he did admit, the squad had a real opportunity to make a real impression in the championship, especially with the return of Mahe Fangupo to the No. 10 jersey. With his undeniable skill, the skipper has real faith the Forbes superstar can play with the control and flair that has him primed to control the Blue Bulls attack.

“It’s no surprise that Mahe at Number 10 will be an absolute weapon and he is going to be one of our standouts,” Miller said.

The Blue Bulls kick off their campaign in Warren on Saturday at 4:30pm in a clash against the reigning champions Newcastle-Hunter at Victoria Park. While Illawarra will face off against Mid North Coast in the other preliminary game starting at 1:30pm.

The final of the Caldwell Cup will kick off at 2:20pm on Sunday at Victoria Park.

CENTRAL WEST BLUE BULLS 2018 SQUAD: 1 Charlie French (Forbes Platypi), 2 Jarrod Hall (Forbes Platypi), 3 Nas Havealeta (Orange Emus), 4 Nick Hughes-Clapp (Orange Emus), 5 Chris Miller © (Cowra Eagles), 6 Dan Ryan (Parkes Boars), 7 Mark Baldwin (Dubbo Kangaroos), 8 Peter Fitzsimmons (Bathurst Bulldogs), 9 Lloyd Rogers (Parkes Boars), 10 Mahe Fangupo (Forbes Platypi), 11 Tom Green (Orange Emus), 12 Lachie Harris (Orange Emus), Jack Hammond (Forbes Platypi), 14 Harry Webber (Bathurst Bulldogs), 15 Lochie Robinson (CSU Bathurst); Bench: 16 Aaron Booby (Bathurst Bulldogs), 17 Tom Dewhurst (Cowra Eagles), 18 Joel Harper (Bathurst Bulldogs), 19 Ben Ryan (Parkes Boars), 20 Feleti Wolfgramm (Orange City Lions), 21 Jack O’Connor (Harden Red Devils), 22 Zac White (Molong Magpies), 23 Joe Nash (Parkes Boars), 24 Will Oldham (Bathurst Bulldogs), 25 Tom Macleay (Forbes Platypi), 26 Dave Birch (Mudgee Wombats)

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Eye’s Up Footy key to Colts success in Warren

By Vittorio Travan

Late disruptions to any plans would usually see teams fall apart, but the Central West Blue Bulls Colts side are using it as a motivation tool.

With late withdrawals from some of their two code players, new additions have been rushed into the side yet Colts captain Patrick Berryman says despite the set backs there is confidence amongst the squad. Berryman put it simply if they believe in their skills they will remain a chance.

“No matter what circumstances the team is in, as long as we keep our positive attitude we can do anything. The changes won’t be an issue, we are just looking forward to a great weekend of rugby,” Berryman said.

Patrick Berryman. Source: Supplied

He added although there was some adjustment, the squad is excited heading into the 2018 Country Championships. “We are starting to slowly get the structure and the boys are building their confidence. If we just remain positive we might just have a good weekend out there [in Warren].”

The squad’s confidence comes from the passion instilled by coach Scott Hatch, who has taken all efforts to get to know his players. Bringing in players for one on one chats to understand their strengths and weakness has created an atmosphere for players to play how they want to.

“Hatchy wants us to think for ourselves and play eyes up footy, so we play smart and what is in front of us,” Berryman said.

This exciting and trusting environment, Berryman added, has the squad ready to excel with ball in hand. With a clear directive to play with ball in hand, then swing it wide and score in the corners, the game plan should see the likes of Harry O’Leary and Alex Saint really excel and show their class.

O’Leary who is returning from a shoulder reconstruction and has missed the past two seasons due to injuries, will switch between first five and fullback. Berrryman said in open spaces the Dubbo Kangaroos ace will really excel especially with early and quick ball.

Meanwhile Alex Saint is set to bring the opposition headaches, with an imposing frame and damaging ball carry set to provide essential go froward for the side. While in defence, the Mudgee Wombats product will be an absolute workhorse in the words of his captain, and will just be an all round presence on the field.

“In attack he [Alex Saint] is just awesome, he has great vision and speed in attack,” Berryman added.

Following a strong  trial against Central Coast earlier in the season, Berryman said the side is ready to mix it up and just go out and play some rugby. Even though the side will be confident heading into Saturday’s clash, Berryman stopped short of predicting a finals berth. He said their attitude has them in a good space to give the Country Championships a real shake up.

“The boys are in great shape, and if we were able to win let alone take home the final we would be over the moon.”

With only four teams contesting the 2018 championships, the sides are automatically playing elimination football. In game 1, Illawarra will take on Newcastle-Hunter at 9:20am. Then the Central West Colt’s side get to test their eyes up footy approach against Central Coast at 10:40am.

The final will kick off on Sunday at Victoria Park at 1pm, with the Third Place play off kicking off at 9am on Sunday.

CENTRAL WEST COLT’S SQUAD: Nick Fisher, Hayden Goodall, Hayden Leopold, Tim Proberts, Jack Connors (Orange City Lions), Lachlan Buckton,  Rylee Lew (CSU Bathurst), George Fletcher, Alex Saint, Connor Pascoe (Mudgee Wombats), Sam Greatbatch (Orange Emus), Jake Sullivan, Charlie Sharwood, James Wilson (Bathurst Bulldogs), Josh Jasprizza, Pat Berryman ©, Harry O’Leary (Dubbo Kangaroos), Angus Hickey (SCU Marlins)

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Women’s Rugby brings new meaning to Central West

By Vittorio Travan

Women’s rugby is no longer an after-thought for 2018, after an overwhelming start to the season with the new 11 team competition offering a completely different product for Central West female sport.

After a strong effort to establish a women’s competition last season, this year the women are competing for the WestFund  Ferguson Cup, that has revamped and re-energized women’s rugby in the region.

After years of independent draws, no centralised structure to their games, Central West Rugby has implemented a new scheme has refined women’s rugby and melded the draws of both the men’s and women’s competitions together.

Central West Rugby CEO Matt Tink says the move is a great idea and hopes it’s positive intent can help get more women excited about the code and playing the game.

“There is a real welcoming of women’s sides as an integral part of rugby clubs and the girl’s will be an actual showpiece event during the season,” Mr. Tink said.

The restructure of the women’s competition will see both women’s and men’s sides play together more often at the same ground, in a move that will bring teams and clubs closer together. Mr Tink says this year there is real push to generate bigger crowds and add to the real excitement around women’s rugby. He says the smart clubs are really embracing this shakeup that will serve to benefit the whole rugby community.

Cootamundra Rugby Club vs. Temora Rugby Union Club in the first ever match in the WestFund Ferguson Cup

With some games during the season to be played after first grade under lights, there is a real effort to re-imagine what women’s rugby is all about in the region. The smart clubs, Mr Tink says, will get on board and make them apart of the speeches and make sure they are playing in front of big crowds each and every week.

Amanda Ferguson an Orange Emus player and life long supporter of Central West Rugby says the expanded season and the opportunity it gives to female players is unbelievable.

“I’m just excited that there is an opportunity for girls to go out and play, and if they get the opportunity to represent the country region that is awesome,” Mrs. Ferguson said.

“At the end of the day win, lose or draw, we are out their playing rugby and having fun. That’s what it is all about, building friendships within our teams but also within the other teams in the zone,” she said.

She says, the 15 round season will help build the opportunity for girls to develop their skill, playing against continuous opposition teams. Mrs. Ferguson said, the chance to grow the game and play a full season is an important step to allow players more opportunity to be recognized for representative honors and will allow the female code to expand its reach within the zone.

With the WestFund Amanda Ferguson competition expanding from last season, Mrs. Ferguson says she is excited to grow the female rugby community.

“Yes you go out there to play hard, as any team does. But once you get off the field you are best mates, and that’s what I am really excited to see grow within the new looking competition,” she said.

Mr. Tink said, clubs are embracing the new direction and era of rugby in the region and says it is part of a strategic plan to re-imagine what central west rugby is all about.

This is just the first step of a future dream that will hopefully see all 27 teams across the central west having women’s sides, which he says will provide a different and better quality sporting product for females in the zone.

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Charging toward Country Championship.

Fantastic work from our Blue Bulls squad as they prepare for the Caldwell Cup. Good to see so many Blowes Clothing Cup and GrainCorp Cup players getting exposed to a constantly improving representative program. Having a quality person and Rugby player such as former Qantas Wallabies and Waratahs player David Lyons pass on his expertise and experience to our lads was invaluable. Great things are happening in Country Rugby.

 

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Easts Bring a Boost To Bush Rugby

The spirit of Rugby at its best. Great Work from Eastern Suburbs Rugby Union and Blowes Clothing Cup team Orange Emus Rugby Union Football Club and GrainCorp Cup Clubs Canowindra and Molong Rugby Clubs. Well done on sharing our wonderful game.