THEY may be down on support from Group 11 players but the under 16s Western Rams are raring to go for their game against Federation Italian Rugby League Australia this Saturday.
The Country Championship-winning Rams venture to Carrington Park down 10 of those players who helped Western take that title.
It makes for a difficult prospect against a “passionate” FIRLA team but coach Kurt Hancock is excited to see what his team can do.
“Most of the guys away are Group 11 players and a couple of them are over on tour in Papua New Guinea at the moment doing the Kokoda trail … and you can’t blame them for not wanting to pass up the opportunity to do that,” he said.
“In saying that, we had 32 players picked from our initial trials and we’ve drawn on some great players from that 32. We had training at Manildra on Tuesday night and no-one missed a beat.
“Noah Ryan has improved out of sight and Jordan Price has put on about eight kilos over the year. It’s great to see guys like that who have gone away and worked very hard on their footy.”
Bathurst Panthers halfback Nic Barlow will captain the Rams.
He’ll be joined by teammates Dylan Miles, Mackenzie Atkins, Brad Fearnley and Nathan Ward. St Pat’s will be represented through Pat Hoarsley on interchange.
The under 16s are hoping to hit back against FIRLA after last year’s 28-14 loss.
A poor start from Western saw their opponents race out to a 22-0 lead, a scoring run which proved the difference.
Hancock said playing against FIRLA is always a massive test.
“Whenever a team is playing for their culture or representing the country they’re from you know it’s going to be a tough gig, and they always play with passion and pride,” he said.
“I said to the guys that it’s not really a ‘friendly’, so to speak. They’re up against guys playing for their family and culture.
“We’ve got a lot of guys out but with the players we’ve brought in it shows that we’ve got a lot of depth in the region. It’s amazing to be able to call on guys like Noah and Jordan.”
Under 16s get the day’s play started from 11am.