Group 11 2018: Wellington Cowboys to feature in three of four preliminary finals

ON THE CHARGE: The hard-running Kenny Everson has been in fine form for Wellington. Photo: NICK GUTHRIE
ON THE CHARGE: The hard-running Kenny Everson has been in fine form for Wellington. Photo: NICK GUTHRIE

Well before Forbes had even won the 2016 Group 11 title, there was many who labelled the side’s forward pack the best in the bush.

They may have lost Zac Merritt heading into this year but when opposition players, coaches and fans talk about the Magpies, the strength of the forwards is still always one of the first things mentioned.

Wellington, on the other hand, has a largely unheralded group of players up front.

Captain Justin Toomey-White is regarded by most as one of the best players in the Western Rams region, but outside that it’s a group of players who don’t make the headlines as much as the likes of Magpies Jake Grace, Ben Maguire and Ben Robinson.

But heading into Sunday’s preliminary final at Apex Oval, Toomey-White said he has complete confidence in his fellow Cowboys to get over the hulking Forbes pack.

“They get the recognition from our blokes at every single training session,” Toomey-White said of his forward.

“They know exactly what their jobs are, they do it and they get the recognition.

“There’s young fellas there and it’s exciting to have those young forwards and then we’ve got the older heads like Ben McGregor and Kenny Everson and they lead us.

“They definitely get the recognition from the players and people like myself, ‘Mad Dog’ (coach Aidan Ryan), and the rest of the coaching staff are grateful to have them.”

Stalwarts McGregor and Everson produced some of the best performances in last weekend’s narrow major semi-final loss to Dubbo CYMS, while young back-rowers Mac Dutfield and Brogan Black have developed into vital figures for the Cowboys. As well as that, under 18s star Daniel Stanley has come on in leaps and bounds in first grade this year and adds as big an impact off the bench as anyone else in the competition.

While each of those players was outstanding last weekend, it wasn’t enough for the Cowboys as CYMS claimed a thrilling 16-14 win and moved straight through to the decider.

That result leaves Wellington playing sudden death footy for the first time this season on Sunday, while Forbes comes into the game having won successive do-or-die games in the finals series.

“At the start of semi-finals we knew we’d have a second chance if we lost a game (after finishing second) but you can’t run out there thinking that,” Toomey-White said.

“Mad Dog said to us we have to treat every game like sudden death at this time of year.

“Forbes is playing great footy and everyone has been talking about them.

“But we’ll go in worrying about ourselves … we’re 80 minutes from the grand final.”

Despite losing last weekend’s major semi, the fact the Cowboys pushed the undefeated CYMS the whole way combined with the huge amount of support from the town at the moment has given the side plenty of belief.

A huge crowd is expected on hand at Apex Oval again, with the Cowboys playing in the preliminary final in under 18s, reserve grade, and first grade.

“We’ve got three out of four sides in and that shows the quality we’ve got and that we’re building towards something,” Toomey-White said.

Sunday’s first grade game is scheduled to kick-off at 2.30pm.