Former South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs forward Kane Cleal will be joining the Coolah Kangaroos for their return season to the Castlereagh League.
The news came this week as the town prepares for its first competition rugby league game in 13 years at Bowen Oval tomorrow.
Cleal is expected to play for the Kangaroos in their first Castlereagh League match against competition heavyweights Gilgandra Panthers and will guide many of the squad’s younger players.
Kangaroos president and Castlereagh League vice-president Wayne Thrift said Cleal will join his younger brother Gareth and captain-coach Chris Kearney at the club.
“Kane came about because Gareth knows Chris [Kearney] really well from their days playing at Warialda together,” he said.
“Obviously all three got talking and Kane has offered to play a few games for us during the season provided he can manage it with work commitments in Sydney.”
Cleal has held off bids from Group 9 clubs Gundagai Tigers and Tumbarumba Greens to play with the Kangaroos.
On the surface it appears the Kangaroos have done well to build their club in the space of six months.
Captain-coach Kearney will play five-eighth and has played football in various towns. He had nine years with Dunedoo, a season with Warialda in Group 19, played for Ourimbah in the Jim Beam Cup under the guidance of former North Sydney prop Kyle White and had a season for Whitsunday Brahmans in North Queensland.
He has also represented Group 14 and Mid-West and lived in Coolah for the past two years with his wife and two children.
The Kangaroos have also got at their disposal home town heroes including former Gulgong Terrier and 2011 Castlereagh League Player of the Year Brad Sheridan who will play lock.
Also joining Sheridan from the Terriers is explosive forward Sam Dunn. Other key players to come into the side are hooker Brett Staniforth, Jeremy Burgess and Paul Beasley who is back after playing for Blackwater in Central Queensland.
Group 14 trainer Stuart Tisdell has also come on board to help the club get through the season.
Thrift said there was some inexperience in the centre pairing with 17-year-old Hamish Kitchen and and 18-year-old Chris Beecham still learning the ropes.
“Gilgandra have to be competition favourites after taking the knockout last week. We’ll definitely use this as a measuring stick for us,” Thrift said.
“After the knockout the guys learnt what was expected of us week-in week-out. We have toughen up and be match ready.”
The Kangaroos have organised a massive reunion for players past and present, beginning on the Friday night and working into Saturday.
The Coolah v Gilgandra main game will be broadcast live on Three Rivers Radio (95.3 fm) from 2.30pm at Bowen Oval.