2017 CRL Country Championships: Battle up front to decider Western Rams-Bidgee Balls under-18s clash

LEADING THE WAY: Clayton Couley has been a leader for the Rams this season and will be key again in Saturday's clash with Bidgee. Photo: JO WOOLNOUGH
LEADING THE WAY: Clayton Couley has been a leader for the Rams this season and will be key again in Saturday's clash with Bidgee. Photo: JO WOOLNOUGH

The Western Rams and Bidgee Bulls have built a strong rivalry in recent years and there will be plenty to play for in Saturday’s under-18s Country Championship clash between the two.

The Rams sit on top of the Southern Pool after two impressive wins in the opening two rounds and a win over the Bulls at Parkes’ Jock Colley Field on Saturday will ensure progress through to the semi-finals.

Rams back-rower Clayton Couley has been among his side’s best in the wins over the Greater Southern Stingrays and Greater Southern Redbacks and the Nyngan Tigers man is ready to shoulder responsibility at Parkes.

They’ve got big strong forwards and it will make it tough for us getting through the middle.

Clayton Couley on Bidgee

“They’ve got big strong forwards and it will make it tough for us getting through the middle,” Couley said, adding the battle up front will be “fun”.

“It’s just going to be tough in the forwards and we can win it over there.”

Couley, Luke Gale and Darby Medlyn have been spoken about at length by coach Cameron Greenhalgh, with the mentor wanting his experienced back row to lead the way.

“It’s been good. He (Greenhalgh) said to us we’re the leaders and we took that on,” Couley said.

“And Darby has been captain and that’s been good, he’s the best man for the job.”

Couley is one of only a handful of Rams who was part of the side last year and while pleased with how the side has developed this campaign he was adamant the side has played nowhere near its best.

The defence around the ruck and being able to execute plays at the right time are two areas Couley said his side was keen to focus on against the Bulls, a side which won its first match before falling to shock loss to the Greater Southern Stingrays last time out.

“We’re going really well, we just need to fix a few things,” Couley said. “It’s been pretty good but we’re not playing to the best of our ability yet. But we’ll get there.”

Greenhalgh has been key to much of the Rams success for a number of years now and Couley was full of praise for the Forbes-based coach.

His ability to help a new-look side gel, in particular the way he has helped Dubbo CYMS halves Matt Burton and Bayden Searle come in and take control of the side, has been key to the Rams’ success. Couley added the secret behind Greenhalgh’s work is the fact he earns the respect of his players.

The coach, like Couley, doesn’t think anyone has seen the best of the Rams yet but a win on Saturday will allow more work to be done before the semi-final at Bathurst on March 25.

Kick-off at Parkes on Saturday is at 1.20pm.