Tim Ryan has faced the same battles as every other previous Western Rams coach but he’s confident his under 23s side is well prepared for this weekend’s clash with Riverina.
The Rams take on Riverina at Forbes’ Spooner Oval on Saturday in the first of two trials before the Country Championship campaign begins.
Getting the side together regularly has been an issue for Ryan with the train-on squad featuring players from Bourke to Lithgow but the coach is satisfied by what he’s seen.
“It’s been very difficult when you only meet once a week or once a fortnight,” he said.
“But everyone has been keen and everybody’s been putting in and is ready to go.
“Out of the whole team there’s only four or five in their last year and the rest have got more time in the 23s so that’s a good thing and we’ve wanted to make it a squad they want to be a part of.”
Trying to develop prestige and honour around a side and format which is only in its second year is something Ryan and his coaching team is working hard to develop.
In the first year of the Country Rugby League under 23s, the Western Rams were brushed aside 62-0 by Monaro.
Ryan then took over from Darren Jackson and has worked to instill unity and belief in his new-look squad.
“The four or five older ones we’ve got are in their last year of rep footy, which is probably not ideal but it is what it is,” Ryan said.
Everyone has been keen and everybody’s been putting in.Western coach Tim Ryan
“So they’ve got to take this opportunity and hopefully the younger guys see this as something they want to be a part of.”
The 25-man squad named by Ryan for this weekend has a strong mix of talent with 14 players from Group 11 and 11 from Group 10.
Seven players from Ryan’s Dubbo CYMS side made the cut, including new recruits Billy Sing and Corey Drew.
Sing has returned to the Fishies after a year in rugby union while Drew played with Erina on the Central Coast in 2017.
Alex Bonham, Jordan Reynolds, Lee Price and Bayden Searle are the other Fishies in the squad while back-rower John Ciappara is the side’s lone Macquarie player.
There will be no lack of creativity in the team with Ryan stating he has four halves capable of leading the Rams around.
Alex Bonham will be key for Western this season while Forbes Mitch Burke has plenty of experience, while Orange Hawks’ Brodie Christopherson has impressed Ryan and Bayden Searle guided the Rams under 18s to the Country Championship title last year.
“Everyone has been really good. I knew a few of the Nyngan boys and I knew some of the Group 10 players too,” Ryan said.
“A lot of them have played plenty of seniors footy and they’ve been good. There’s been no one real standout.”
Ryan has give each of his players the responsibility to work on their fitness and most are now deep into pre-season preparation with their club sides.
That has allowed Ryan to focus on team-building at training sessions.
“Just to get the boys to know each other. Not many had met before this,” he said of training.
“That’s the first thing and getting them to gel and want to play for each other. That’s been the focus.”
Ryan admitted he doesn’t know too much about Riverna, the Rams’ opponents this weekend, but expects them to be an “impressive” side.
“It’s going to be a bit of trial and error for us,” he said of Saturday’s game.
“We’re taking about 25 players so it’s going to be hard to give them all some game time.
“I know another side had about 21 players and it was tough to get them all on so that will be a challenge in itself.”
The Rams take on Riverina in a match of four 20 minute quarters from 2.45pm at Forbes on Saturday.
WESTERN RAMS (subject to change): 1. Joey Dwyer (Parkes Spacemen), 2. Sam Simmons (Nyngan Tigers), 3. Billy Sing (Dubbo CYMS), 4. Lachlan Munro (Orange CYMS), 5. Bayden Searle (Dubbo CYMS), 6. Alex Bonham (Dubbo CYMS), 7. Mitch Burke (Forbes Magpies), 8. Joe Duffy (Orange CYMS), 9. James Fisk (Nyngan Tigers), 10. Cody Godden (Lithgow Workies), 11. Jordan Reynolds (Dubbo CYMS), 12. Jed Betts (Bathurst Panthers), 13. Jake Betts (Bathurst Panthers), 14. Lee Price (Dubbo CYMS), 15. Nick Loader (Bathurst Panthers), 16. Hamish Astill (Dubbo CYMS), 17. John Ciappara (Macquarie), 18. Jay Slavin (Parkes), 19. Ethan McKellar (Orange Hawks), 20. Mitch Squire (Bathurst St Pat's), 21. Brodie Christopherson (Orange Hawks), 22. Corey Drew (Dubbo CYMS), 23. Ryan Griffin (Orange CYMS), 24. Ned Dawson (Nyngan Tigers), 25. Chanse Burgess (Mudgee Dragons)