Country RL Bush Telegraph #10

This week's Bush Telegraph highlights the recent Andrew Fifita All Schools Carnival, Invitational Carnival at Dunedoo and the Cowra Magpies flying high from the Bathurst Panthers Rugby League Knockout!

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Andrew Fifita attended All Schools Final in Griffith

Cronulla Sharks Star and World Cup winning Kangaroo, Andrew Fifita was at EW Moore Oval Griffith to present the Andrew Fifita Cup to the winner of the Griffith All-Schools Rugby League match on Thursday 20th March.

The former Griffith Waratah's player traveled to his former home town where he spent his high school years to spend time at the carnival.

"To have the Cup named after me was really amazing and a great honour," Fifita said.

"Having played footy in Griffith, it is always nice to head home and check out some of the local talent."

In a move to boost recognition of the competition, the trophies for the winning teams and best open's player will be named after influential Griffith Rugby League personalities.

The Andrew Fifita Cup will be awarded to the winner of the open competition and the best player will receive the Ray Brown Medal.

The under 16s will be playing for the Bonetti Family Shield and the best under 16 player will be striving for the Simon Bonetti Medal.

Invitational Carnival at Dunedoo

The second annual Dick Large Invitational Carnival will be held this Saturday at Robertson Oval, Dunedoo, commencing at 11.00am.

The carnival will mark the start of the 2014 campaign for three Castlereagh League teams, the hosts, the Dunedoo Swans, the revamped Trangie Magpies and the revitalised Coonamble Bears who will be competing along with Peak Hill, Kandos and Dubbo Westside.

The Swans have been highly competitive in recent years, and with their talented and wily halfback Tom Yeo again at the helm there is little to suggest that they won't be figuring prominently towards the end of the season.

Yeo is Dunedoo born and bred. As an 18 year old he captained Dubbo CYMS to a Group 11 Under 18 premiership and represented both Group 11 and Western Division in that age group and has also worn the Group 11 representative guernsey at a senior level. He will be having his second year as captain coach of the Swans who should field a similar outfit to their very competitive 2013 team.

They will, however, be without the services of talented five eight Tom Besgrove who has signed with the South City Bulls team in Wagga after having taken up employment as a teacher at Coolamon.

Meanwhile the Trangie Magpies will be having their first outing under new coach Mark Gleeson.

Gleeson is well credentialed and comes with vast experience having coached numerous CRL first grade teams including the Kempsey Mustangs, Kiama Knights, Mittagong Lions, Eden Tigers (who claimed a Group 16 premiership) and Taree Old Bar Pirates.

He also had a stint as assistant coach of the Tannum Sands Seagulls in the Gladstone competition in Queensland with the head coach at the time being the Queensland maroon's legend, Gary Larson.

The Magpies are brimful of confidence as they approach the forthcoming season having secured the services of representative centre Braden Carney, a Trangie local who has been playing with Dubbo CYMS in the Group 11 competition in recent times.

In addition to Carney the club will boast no less than sixteen new players to their ranks, the majority of them being young local players who have been playing with the Narromine Jets. These include the exciting halves pairing of Aaron Waters and Ethan Sheedy.

Meanwhile after a couple of years of lean pickings by their lofty standards the Coonamble Bears are also quietly confident that they will again be a strong force in the Castlereagh League competition under newly appointed captain coach, Brad Pickering.

Having flitted between rugby league and rugby union over the last few years Pickering possesses outstanding natural talent and has the capability to puncture any defence in attack.

Reports from the Bear's den indicate that he is approaching his new found role with great enthusiasm, and this enthusiasm has been rubbing off on his players, a number of whom are making a comeback after having a year or two off. These include the well performed Jarrod Rae and Khan Duffy.

The Bears also hope to attain the services of returned local Josh Cock who has had stints with South Newcastle and has also played in the USA.

There is little doubt that the Bears, and Pickering, will gain greatly from being mentored by former Cronulla Sharks and Salford (UK) half back Mark Wakefield who is a new publican to the town.

Wakefield's son, Jaden, a hooker, will be pulling on the Bears colours after graduating from the Gunnedah under 18 team last year.

The Dick Large Carnival will kick off at 11.00am with the hosts taking on Kandos in the opening game, the final set down for a 3.30pm start.

Improved Magpies are flying high

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COWRA were one of the sides spoken about during the Group 10 premier league off-season as having the potential for major improvement.

If there was any doubt about it, it was put to rest on Friday and Saturday as they swept to four straight wins in the Bathurst Panthers Rugby League Knockout, defeating St Pat's 7-6 in the final.

There was no lack of irony in the manner of the result either. For the last seven seasons Tim Holman has been the fulcrum of the Saints' attack at five-eighth, but he but was lured to the Magpies over the summer. It was his try that gave Cowra their only four-pointer of the final against Pat's.

Then with less than 30 seconds on the clock, fellow half Ricky Whitton piloted his shot at field goal calmly over the crossbar just as it had looked certain that the game would go into extra-time.Earlier Cowra had beaten Lithgow Workies (24-1), Panthers (25-6) and the impressive Blayney team 22-6 to progress to the decider.

Pat's had beaten Orange Hawks 12-4 and Oberon 10-8 in getting there.

"It was a great way to start out with a new club," Holman said.

"You want to make a good impression when you switch over. I'm still finding my feet at the moment, but to do as well as we did over four matches in less than 24 hours was a big effort.

"With a minute or 90 seconds left on the clock I expected Pat's to just wind the clock down and make sure we got to extra-time, but fortunately for us we got a mistake out of them."

In the first half Cowra had to soak up plenty of pressure as the Saints dominated possession and territory.

But the Magpies were impressive in defence, holding out Pat's.

Having gone to the break with no score on the board, the final 20 minutes was set to provide a thrilling finish to the tournament and it did.

Against the run of play, Holman crossed the line shortly after the resumption to finally break the deadlock and Whitton's conversion made it 6-0.

Just as it appeared that Cowra would be able to keep a clean sheet and hold the Saints out, hooker Benjamin John produced a smart move to get across and put his team back in the contest with less than two minutes on the clock.

New recruit Gary Reilly added the extras to tie things up, but from the kick-off the ball went to ground to set up the Magpies' final crack at victory, duly delivered by Whitton.

Both Cowra halves were standouts throughout the carnival along with centre Warren Williams, and their attack will cause plenty of headaches for some of the more fancied teams come premiership time.

"It was a weird feeling to run out there and play against my old side, but they had a lot of new players as well and probably only four or five that I had played a lot of footy with in the last year or so, so that made it a bit easier," Holman said.

"Obviously, as everyone says, you can't take too much out of the trial matches, they're just a bit of a rough guide, but based on how we went, to win four games in a short time and beat some good sides along the way, it was a good impression to make.

"I think we can look forward with a fair bit of confidence."

COWRA MAGPIES 7 (Tim Holman try; Ricky Whitton goal; Ricky Whitton field goal) defeated ST PAT'S 6 (Benjamin John try; Gary Reilly goal).