Andrew Johns Cup Preview – Southern Pool

Updated: February 14, 2019

Western Rams

Defending Andrew Johns Cup Champions, the Western Rams will be guided by Tony Woolnough this year, who previously helped outgoing Coach Kurt Hancock as an assistant and volunteer.

Woolnough, who has coached Group 11 Representative sides in Under-14’s through to Under-18’s and has coached at the Far West Academy of Sport, admitted he was eager for the season to begin.

“Hopefully we can carry the Western Rams badge into the Semi’s and go deep into the Finals,” Woolnough said.

Although the players are talented within their own towns and clubs, Woolnough said representative football was a whole new level of competition and the players need to be ready to work hard.

Woolnough declared the Ram’s focus this year was to play as a team, with no individuals and hopefully the side can produce some pleasing results – which may result in players being selected for NSW Country Representative Teams at the conclusion of the competition.


Penrith Panthers

After entering the competition for the first time last year, returning Penrith Coach David Mackinnon expressed how beneficial it was for his metropolitan players to experience Regional Representative Rugby League.

Mackinnon says he and the players were blown away by the physicality, skill level and professionalism of the teams and they are looking forward to another quality competition this year.

With a more sizeable and physical side than last year’s, Mackinnon believes these traits will put them in good stead and help the side hold their own against all opponents.

Facing the Western Rams to open the season once again, Mackinnon admitted his squad will be more prepared when they face them this weekend – as last year proved to be an eye-opening introduction to the competition.

As a development side for the Penrith Panthers, Mackinnon’s goal is to develop the players into future NRL athletes.

“Winning games is secondary to the development of the players; it’s always nice to win but certainly the focus is on the player development first,” Mackinnon said.


Riverina Bulls

Incoming Riverina Coach Troy Ryan is confident the Bulls are ready for action after an intensive off-season training regime featuring skills testing and strength sessions at Anytime Fitness.

With a large number of his squad eager and willing to experience their first taste of representative football, Ryan said a recent visit by former NRL stars Jamie Lyon, Michael Robertson and Shane Rodney proved invaluable for his team.

“It was a great experience for the players and coaching staff who picked up a few new tips and techniques,” said Ryan.

“Our focus will be to play as good as each individual can play and be ready to improve each week.”


Monaro Colts

Returning Monaro Coach Brenden Bradley is hoping his new-look side can strive for a Semi-Finals berth this season and challenge for the Andrew Johns Cup.

With many players having never experienced representative football before, Bradley admitted everyone was excited and his players were ready to enjoy the experience.

“As long as we can compete with the other sides and improve, we might be able to sneak into the Semi-Finals,” Bradley said.

“The main focus is developing – winning is a bonus for them, so we’ll see how we go.”

A highlight for the Colts off-season was a coaching session with Canberra Raiders staff including NRL Coach Ricky Stuart and former Raiders stars Brett White and Andrew McFadden.

A trial against Illawarra before Christmas and a more recent trial against the Raiders Harold Matthews side has provided the Colts with an ideal preparation for the upcoming season.


GSR Wests Tigers

A new coach and training regime has the GSR Wests Tigers raring to go in the Andrew Johns Cup.

Nathan Lakeman, who has previously been involved with the Wests Tigers, Camden Junior and Senior Rams and Group 6 Under-14 and 15 Country Championship sides, believes his mobile side can trouble some of their opponents in 2019.

“Our focus is on individuals and improving their performance so it benefits the whole team,” said Lakeman.

“We don’t have the biggest side but our mobility is a real assest.

“We’ll focus on that for the next few weeks and we won’t look too much into a finishing position at this stage.”

With a strong program aligned with the Wests Tigers NRL pathway, the Tigers are looking to make an impression on the competition in 2019.


Illawarra South Coast Dragons

Illawarra South Coast Coach Cameron Thurgate will take advantage of his vast experience to ensure the Dragons are firing on all cylinders in the Andrew Johns Cup in 2019.

Having been involved with the St. George Illawarra Dragons Junior Representative program and NSW Under-16 and 18 Representative sides in the past; Thurgate acknowledged one of the hardest elements of representative football is bringing players from all different clubs together in a short amount of time – but insisted his side are only focused on the positives.

“We’ve got to look at the positives and roll with them, we’ll certainly give it our best shot and if the kids have improved I have done my job,” said Thurgate.

Thurgate will have some familiarity with his new squad, having coached a number of players previously in the Illawarra Under-14’s and 15’s Country Championships in recent years.