Fresh-faced students shape up

NEW FACES: Josh Gemmell is one of just a handful of returning regular first grade players for CSU in this new Central West Rugby season as they take on Cowra Eagles at home tomorrow. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 081614csu3RUGBY UNION

CENTRAL West Rugby is back at Charles Sturt University with the students looking to turn the tables against the odds on a visiting Cowra Eagles team tomorrow at University Oval.

The students are notoriously the most difficult side to get a read on in the pre-season due to the high player turnover, but even by CSU’s standards it’s going to be tough to overcome.

This season marks some of the biggest losses of recent years with Central West representative Hugh Medway’s departure, plus Sam Roberson, Jack Garrad and Tom Keft all gone.

Returning coach James McLaren says it’s yet another period of uncertainty among the CSU club when it comes to its first grade line up.

“Numbers wise we’re looking great. It’s a bit like a box of chocolates at the start of the year, like it always has been. We won’t be getting a good idea of a finalised first grade until somewhere like five weeks in,” he said.

“Obviously there’s some big losses to fill. A lot of our guys have stepped up. The maturity levels have really improved over the past few years and everyone is really keen to go. It’s going to be hard to fill in the likes of Hugh and Sam Roberson but there’s players ready to give it a go.”

CSU were wiped off the park in last season’s opener against Cowra when they went down 61-5.

The next time the two teams met it was the home side CSU who threw the game away when poor discipline let Cowra back into the match to allow them a 30-22 win.

With two forgettable performances against the Eagles, McLaren and his team will be hoping to write a happier script this time around.

If that’s going to be the case the students are going to have to do so with a very new team.

He estimates that there may be up to five players left who played consistent first grade rugby last season.

Being the opening round it’s difficult still for McLaren to size up his own team, let alone the competition, but says focusing on wins and losses remains the wrong attitude for the students.

“We’ve been working on our defensive structure. I’m looking for aggression and commitment at the breakdown … Our colts are looking really big, which bodes well for us down the track,” he said.

“We still lack that bit of height and size up front.

“We’ve got to be realistic about what our win-loss ratio could end up like, but hopefully we can always be among it and when we get the ball to make sure we make the most of it. We just need to try and play some honest rugby.

“Hopefully down the road we can have some guys join us with that bit of extra experience. You never know what could happen.”

The opening whistle will blow at University Oval at 3.20pm tomorrow.

CSU: 1 Michael Coates, 2 Anthony Nougher, 3 Jack McKenna, 4 Dom Waugh, 5 Charlie McIntosh, 6 Tom Greenway, 7 Michael Thompson, 8 Jordan Masman, 9 Josh Gemmel, 10 Cam Backhouse, 11 Will Sears, 12 Blake Ridges (c), 13 Maui Moody, 14 Fraser McCormack, 15 James Tooth.

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