Gundagai Tigers players will make up the largest contingent of the Riverina Bulls 21-man squad that will contest the 2022 Country Championships.
Five Tigers players were selected, with James Luff coaching the side, and Derek Hay, Nathan Rose, Latrell Siegwalt and Royce Tout were all picked.
Luff said he would be looking for Derek Hay to lead his side from the front, with the playmaker one of Riverina’s best during the 2021 Country Championships.
“Derek was the Riverina halfback last year and he did a great job,” Luff said.
“I thought he was unlucky not to make the (NSW) Country side based on his form for Riverina. He is a good leader and provides a fair bit of morale off the field too.”
Gundagai’s spine of Luff, Hay, Rose and Siegwalt could very well guide Riverina in 2022, with Luff admitting it was a contributing factor when picking his Bulls’ squad.
“With the other boys, I’m pretty happy to have a Gundagai spine,” Luff said.
“If we have a few games under the belt, and work out our combinations, it will only be good for the Group 9 season and the Country Championship.”
Tout was another automatic selection, although Luff explained that the big forward’s place in the side would come down to availability.
“He was in the side last year and he has a great offload,” Luff said.
“We want him there again, but it will be a bit hard for Royce with training, but with a big squad I’ve got options available if he can’t get back and train.”
Luff was pleased with his overall 21-man squad, explaining he had the commitment of all players leading into what will be a tough competition.
“I’m very happy with the side. Everyone I rang to get involved put their hand up and accepted the offer,” Luff said.
“I’ve been very happy with the player response and we look to have a very strong team.”
Riverina will boast a massive pack, with Group 9 big boppers Zac Masters and Royce Tout joined by Group 20’s prop of the year Chris Latu (Yenda), second rower of the year Andrew Lavaku (Griffith) and lock of the year, Hayden Philp (Leeton).
The Bulls also boast some explosiveness out wide, with new Gundagai recruits Rose and Siegwalt to be joined by Group 20’s winger of the year Joe Peato (Griffith) and centre of the year Jonathon Sila (Griffith).
“We have a massive side with plenty of little fellas,” Luff said.
“There is plenty of talent across the park and a lot of strike power.”
The Riverina side does look quite different from the 2021 team that qualified for the Country Championship semi-finals before going down to Illawarra–South Coast, with 11 changes needing to be made, but Luff believed his side could do better than this year’s team.
“To fill those positions could have been quite daunting but we have put together a really good side,” Luff said.
“I believe we have just as good a side as last year, if not better, and I am really looking forward to the prospect of playing this side in the Country Champs.”=
Riverina team: Lachlan Bristow – Tumut, Brayden Draber – Tumut, Daniel Foley – Wagga Kangaroos, Nick Hall – Young, Derek Hay – Gundagai, James Hay – Wagga Brothers, Jayke Hogan – Young, Chris Latu – Yenda, Andrew Lavaka – Griffith, Halauafu Lavaka – Griffith, James Luff – Gundagai, Zac Masters – Tumut, Connor McCauley – Wagga Brothers, Jake Olam – Albury, Joe Peato – Griffith, Hayden Philp – Leeton, Nathan Rose – Gundagai, Latrell Siegwalt – Gundagai, Jonathon Sila – Griffith, Royce Tout – Gundagai, Jake Walker – Young.