Western Rams first round clash with Monaro is tipped to be Jackson's hardest

BANG: Parkes' Sam Dwyer and Oberon's Jackson Brien will line-up for Western in the opening round of the championships at Cowra on Saturday. Photo: NICK McGRATH
BANG: Parkes' Sam Dwyer and Oberon's Jackson Brien will line-up for Western in the opening round of the championships at Cowra on Saturday. Photo: NICK McGRATH

The first one’s the worst one.

Western will look to buck recent history when the Rams host Monaro at Cowra in the opening round of the under 23s Country Championship on Saturday, and coach Darren Jackson knows it too.

For the Rams, since the championships reverted back to a divisional knockout format in 2013, the first round hurdle has proved impossible to clear.

Western has been bundled out in four straight first round fixtures, last year’s 32-20 loss to Southern following 48-40 and 12-6 defeats to Greater Northern in 2015 and 2014, respectively, and a 40-28 loss to Central Coast in 2013.

Jackson is an ornament of Western rugby league having captained Country firsts, and the Bourke-based mentor is fully aware of the Rams’ recent record.

But he’s confident despite a limited preparation Western is more than capable of progressing to round two.

“It’s obviously a tough ask,” he said.

“But Monaro first up, if we’re good enough we’ll come away with the goods.

“We had a bit of a get together on Saturday night at Burrendong and then a fairly decent session on Sunday morning.

“The boys seemed crisp and fresh and looking forward to a good performance on Saturday.

“The fist game is usually the toughest, and from experience if you can get through that it puts you in good stead for the rest of the campaign.”

The only change to Jackson’s squad has been the omission to Workies winger Keelan Bresac, who picked up a knee injury since Group 11 hung on to defeat Group 10 26-24 in the divisional trial at Parkes two weeks ago.

Bresac was a lock for one of the Rams wing spots, with Bathurst St Pat’s utility Mitch Squire and impressive Parkes recruit Fletcher Strong now occupying the flanks.

Jackson believes the squad has plenty of motivation to turn Western’s luck around.

“They’re all jumping out of their skin so to speak, which is great,” he said.

Drawing on players from the Canberra region, Monaro is tipped to be a structured outfit and sharp around the ruck.

That’s not worrying Jackson though.

“It’s a bit of a philosophy of mine to try and get our own backyard in order before we worry about anything else,” he said.

“We’ll try and execute a bit of a game plan and come away with the goods.”

Western will complete its preparation for round one of the titles with a training run at Cowra on Friday evening, where the side's captain will be appointed.

The first round encounter with Monaro kicks-off at 12pm on Saturday at Sid Kallas Oval.

WESTERN: 1 Sam Dwyer (Parkes Spacemen), 2 Mitch Squire (Bathurst St Pat’s), 3 Jackson Brien (Oberon Tigers), 4 Jesse Wighton (Forbes Magpies), 5 Fletcher Strong (Parkes Spacemen), 6 Alex Bonham (Dubbo CYMS), 7 Chad Porter (Parkes Spacemen), 8 Lee Price (Dubbo CYMS), 9 Wade Kavanagh (Dubbo CYMS), 10 Lincoln Kavanagh (Dubbo CYMS), 11 Rakai Tuheke (Blayney Bears), 12 Ben Maguire (Forbes Magpies), 13 Jake Betts (Bathurst Panthers); 14 Mitch Burke (Forbes Magpies), 15 Jed Betts (Bathurst Panthers), 16 Norman Fuiava (Nyngan Tigers), 17 Lochie Hobby (Blayney Bears), 18 Michael Ingwerson (Oberon Tigers).