COACH Dan Beckett is confident he has the right balance of new and old faces to lead Newcastle to an unprecedented sixth straight Caldwell Cup – the holy grail of NSW Country Rugby.
On MondayBeckett named nine debutants and only 12 survivors from last year’s successful campaign in a 25-man squad for the Country Championships to be held in Tamworth in a fortnight.
Anderson Medal winner Mark Wade, Pete Bakarich, Bleddyn Gant, Joe Akkersdyk, Sireli Bainivalu, Dillon Rowney, Adam Nolan, Mark Donald and Tom Lamont will make their maiden appearance for Newcastle at the championships.
Hamilton premiership-winning captain and NSW Country hooker Steve Lamont will skipper the side, which is heavy on back-rowers.
“The balance looks pretty good,” Beckett said.
“Mixed in with those nine debutants are Anderson Medal winners, premiership winners and guys with plenty of first-grade experience.”
Newcastle enter the championships with one hit-out against Manly. A trial against Eastwood was washed out.
“We have two weeks to prepare for a grand final,” Beckett said. “There are no second chances. We need to get it right for the first game.”
Newcastle open the championship against hosts Central North on the Saturday.
Central Coast play Illawarra.
The winners meet in the final on Sunday.
NEWCASTLE: (forwards) Peter Bakarich, Steve Lamont, Bleddyn Gant, Joe Akkersdyk, Mark Wade, James Johnston, Chris Stratton, Steve Sione, Adam Nolan, Nick Palmer, Mark O’Brien, Mark Donald, Charl van Niekirk, Tom Lamont, Va Talaileva; (backs) Gareth Ernst, Brendan Holiday, Sireli Bainivalu, Luke Sherwood, Lewie Catt, Dillon Rowney, Ben Harriss, Paul Dan, Paul Mlotkowski, Michael Delore.
CONFIDENT: Coach Dan Beckett.