With just over two weeks to go before the final City v Country representative fixture is played in Mudgee, thoughts of the players that will grace the farewell fixture are now looming.
While fans of rugby league will be waited with baited breath to find out which stars of the game they will be seeing live, for the City and Country squad selectors also have a job in front of them.
The 2016 fixture in Tamworth may hold some suggestions for who might run out in the Country colours come May 7, when City downed the representative squad 44-30.
While Gulgong’s Josh Jackson wasn’t included in the squad last year, the proximity of the match to his home town will be a sure-fire lure for the Bulldogs key forward.
Other Central West stars that may have their heads turned by the draw of the final fixture include Jack Wighton and James Maloney, both of whom come from Orange, and Dubbo’s Isaah Yeo.
Andrew Ryan, himself a Country representative six times, has pointed to a few players that might have a big impact in the game, including Damian Cook and Isaah Yeo.
“Cook was 18th man last year so you’d expect him to be in the running,” Ryan said.
“It depends who is working with Origin, but young guys like Isaah Yeo who have turned up for the rep games before will be a great addition into the side.”
Ryan revealed that the City Country fixture holds a special place in his heart, and in many of the players who grew up in the country.
“I was really excited when it was revealed that it was to be in Mudgee again because it’s such a great place, and coming from Dubbo I was hoping it would be somewhere in the Central West,” Ryan admitted.
“It’s a special place and I’m sure that the community will get behind it like they have done previously.
“I think it’s going to be huge.”
Craig Fitzgibbon, who will coach the Country side, is excited to be the one to see the representative match out with a strong goodbye.
“We have a lot of guys who are always ready to pull on the jumper and play for the win, it’s just a matter of watching through the opening rounds of the [NRL] and making final decisions,” he said.
“We want to end the series with a win for Country in the heart of the Central West.”
The Country team will be announced a week prior on April 30, with the squad then heading to Mudgee on May 1 to prepare for the finale.