Narrabri Rugby Club will be represented by four players at this year’s NSW Country Rugby Union Championships, which will be held in Tamworth this weekend.

The Blue Boars players will line up for Central North Kookaburras, with Esta Kalatzis and Cassidy Morley both part of the women’s team that will play for the Thompson Cup, and Josh Schwager and Will Ciesiolka both part of the senior men’s side that will play for the Richardson Shield and will also be attempting to lock in a return to Caldwell Cup contention in 2025.

Central North’s men’s team found themselves playing for the Caldwell Cup in 2023 after prevailing in the Richardson Shield final in 2022, but their results last year saw them fall back down into pool C alongside Western Plains and New England.

Those three sides will play against one another on Saturday, and the team that tops the pool will challenge the team that finishes fifth out of the six teams in pool A and pool B in the Richardson Cup final.

The winners of pools A and B will contest the Caldwell Cup final, the two runners-up will meet in the third-place playoff, and the team that ends up ranked sixth will be relegated to pool C for 2025.

The winner of pool C this year will not only progress to the Richardson Shield grand final but will also earn themselves a spot in the top six at next year’s Country Championships to battle for the Caldwell Cup.

Narrabri Blue Boars stalwart Daniel Kahl was a co-captain of the Central North senior men’s team back in 2022 when they went through the weekend undefeated to claim the Richardson Shield for the first time since 2015, and he was also a player and assistant coach last year.

Kahl has hung up the boots in the rep arena following a shoulder injury that has kept him sidelined for the Blue Boars so far this year, but he has stepped up for Central North and is now one of three coaches alongside Quirindi’s Ed Nankerville and Scone’s Scott Hatch.

Kahl told The Courier he was excited to coach the side this weekend and he was confident with the players that Central North have at their disposal.

“I’m excited,” he said.

“It’s a different role after being assistant coach last year and still playing. It’s a bit of a transition that was coming and it’s good to be involved in the group in a different capacity.

“Looking forward to using my brain the way I would when I was a player without having to belt my body up.

“We’re really happy with the team we’ve got. There’s a core group of guys there that have played the past couple of Country Champs who have really bought into the program, which is encouraging.

“Our forward pack has got a lot of depth. The back five, in particular, the blokes that will be on the bench would comfortably start in most sides. There’s a lot of depth there, and that will probably be where our game plan revolves around.

“There are some fresh faces in the backs and we’re excited to see how they go as well.”

Kahl declared that the Central North men were determined to win their way back into the Caldwell Cup frame for 2025.

“The goal will definitely be that we top our pool and get back in the Caldwell Cup because we think that’s where we belong,” Kahl said.

“We weren’t disappointed with how we played last year, but results didn’t go our way. We didn’t feel like our performances warranted us dropping back, but that’s just the way it worked out.

“So we don’t have a chip on our shoulder and there’s not necessarily a point to prove, but certainly we feel that being back in the Richardson Shield should be a short-lived thing because we don’t think being there is a reflection of our program.”

Kahl, who has played more than 150 senior games for Narrabri Rugby Club, said Blue Boars duo Ciesiolka and Schwager had well and truly earned their spots in the squad and are two players to watch at this year’s NSW Country Championships.

“Will Ciesiolka is technically one of the best props in the comp,” Kahl said.

“He’s not a huge unit, but he’s technically very accurate. The scrum has been an important piece of Central North’s game for the past couple of years now, it’s a bit of a weapon, and he certainly contributes to that.

“Josh Schwager was in the Country training squad last year. We have a lot of depth there in the back row, as I mentioned, but he will be featuring prominently. He’s a big body, strong ball carries, and he’ll contribute plenty there in that part of the game. He will impose himself physically.”

Kahl said it was quite exciting to see Morley in the Central North women’s team after she lit up the CNRU comp last year and has had an explosive start to the 2024 season, and he is looking forward to seeing how she adjusts to the next level. He also said that Kalatzis was impressive last year and deserved her spot in the Country training squad in 2023, and it is great to see her back in the Central North team this year.

The Central North women’s team are in pool B alongside New England, Central West and Illawarra. They will play their first game on Saturday morning when they challenge New England at Chillingworth Oval just after Central West meets Illawarra. The winner of those two games will meet in the pool final that afternoon at the same venue, and the winner of that match will meet the winner of Pool A in the Thompson Cup final the following day at Scully Park.

Pool A includes Hunter, Central Coast, Mid North Coast and Far North Coast, and their pool games will all be played across the day at Scully Park on Saturday.

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