Rays to embrace western Sydney in NRC 2018

Thu, Jul 5, 2018, 7:54 AM
Beth Newman
by Beth Newman
The Rays want to be an all of Sydney team. Photo: Getty Images
The Rays want to be an all of Sydney team. Photo: Getty Images

Sydney Rays general manager Luke Holmes says the re-zoned NRC side is determined to represent all points of the city’s compass in 2018.

NSW will field just two teams in the fifth NRC season, emulating Queensland’s country-city model.

The revival of the Sydney team has come at the cost of the Western Sydney Rams, and news of the Rams being absorbed into the two other teams came just months after Penrith was axed from the Shute Shield.

But Holmes said western Sydney would not be neglected.

“I suppose Sydney's west could feel like they have lost certain teams and different things this year, like the loss of Penrith in the Shute Shield, that's not good for our game,” he said.

“I think the big thing here and the message we're trying to send is that this is not a North Shore team, it's not a team affiliated to certain clubs on the North shore.”

“Very much, it's an all-Sydney team.”

Holmes said the Rays had already lined up a host of players from Sydney’s west to play, with player allocation based on place of birth, not on club affiliation this year.

“We’re excited to see people like Kelly (Meafua) - captain of West Harbour - this would be a massive opportunity for him,” he said.

“There's a few boys out at Parramatta that we'll be seeing in the Sydney Rays jersey this year and I think that's a very exciting opportunity for these players.”

The success of Queensland’s sides in the NRC is a benchmark for the Rays, Holmes said.

“If you look at the amount of guys that debuted for (Reds and 2017 Queensland Country coach) Brad Thorn this year, even though they haven't had the best season, the talent that's come out of that and the next generation of Wallabies, that’s off the back of the NRC and the success that they had last year.

“So, we're really hoping we can provide that to the Waratahs next year and Australian rugby.”

Off the field, the Rays are looking to keep the Rams’ Pasifika focus alive, with a series of Pasifika men’s and women’s games to link up with their home games.

Sydney’s home match against the Fiji Drua will be part of a Pasifika showcase at Concord Oval.

“They'll (home games) become real festivals of rugby, it's about giving a platform for everyone to play on that big stage and to hopefully see some of those teams and their people and their community, being able to play on those days,” he said.

The Sydney Rays kick off their 2018 NRC campaign on Saturday September 8 against the Canberra Vikings at Leichhardt Oval. Full draw here.

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