PREMIERSHIP-winning Waratahs captain Pala Palupe is one of five Anderson Medal winners named in a Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union train-on squad that boasts internationals, former Super Rugby players and NSW country representatives.
Coach Dan Beckett yesterday named an extended group for an assault on an unprecedented seventh-straight Caldwell Cup, the symbol of NSW Country rugby supremacy.
‘‘It’s a big squad and we took our time naming it because we wanted a group that can take Newcastle rugby to a new level,’’ Beckett said.
‘‘The program is not only about the country championships.
‘‘We will play some quality Sydney opposition in the lead-up and the performance against them will be just as important.’’
Palupe is joined by nine members of the Tahs outfit that beat Hamilton 17-15 in the grand final in September, including player-coach and former Canterbury Crusader Hayden Pedersen, Belgium international prop Alain Miriallakis and former Samoan fly-half Carl Manu.
‘‘The premiers always bring confidence and energy from a grand final win,’’ Beckett said.
‘‘We welcome that. They certainly unveiled a lot of talent in 2013.
‘‘Hayden Pedersen is keen to work with his players. The experience he and a number of others have will rub off on the younger players.
‘‘It is a good mix.’’
Dan Kevill, who won the Anderson Medal in 2009, returns to the representative scene after a long absence.
Gareth Ernst (2012), Mark Wade (2011) and Va Talaileva (2010, 2007) complete the best and fairest award winners.
Country reps Dylan Evans, Ben Harriss, Talaileva, Brendan Holliday and Luke Sherwood are going again.
There is also a host of exciting new talent headed by Matt Ireland, Tapaki Rahui, Blair Rush and Nathan Brennan.
Each of the 10 clubs are represented. Hamilton have the largest representation with 11.
Newcastle beat Illawarra 28-18 in the final in Tamworth last year and will again be short-priced favourites to continue their reign in Mudgee on March 28-29.
‘‘We learnt a lesson last year,’’ Beckett said.
‘‘No one was out to play rugby, they were just out there to try and stop us.
‘‘This year the mindset will be that the rugby is more important than anything else.
‘‘We are going to do everything we can to perform in a way that no one has seen.
‘‘We have depth and talent right across the board.
‘‘The next few months is about the group realising their responsibility and having the courage to try and do things different. A rugby revolution.
‘‘We will have a get together before Christmas and rip in from the start of January.’’
SELECTION: Waratahs No.8 Pala Palupe in action during this year’s NHRU grand final.