POWERFUL Albury forward Josh Cale will forgo the West Wyalong Knockout to support his father Ross Cale as he recovers from a horror horse riding accident.
Former Penrith legend Ross Cale was rushed to a major Sydney hospital after suffering shocking injuries in the sickening fall on his Narromine property.
Thunder captain-coach Ben Jeffery said Albury’s tight-knit rugby league community is rallying behind the family of Ross and Josh Cale.
“It was a pretty terrible accident,” Jeffery said.
“He (Ross) broke his leg and his pelvis and fractured his eye socket.
“He does a lot of horse-riding. He just loves it.
“I’ve have been told he is going ok now.”
Ross, a former Group 11 and Western Division representative, played in the front-row for Penrith between 1977 and 1981 under legendary coaches Don Parish and Len Stacker and alongside greats Phil Gould and Tim Sheens.
Along with Cale, Thunder will be without Cameron Breust and Elijah Tipene, who are both enjoying much-deserved holidays.
“Breusty is overseas at the moment so it just sucks to be him,” Jeffery said sarcastically.
In the absence of the star trio – and in the wake of the departure of key forwards Mitch Davis and Lou Goodwin – Jeffery is looking to rising stars Jon Huggett and Andrew Cowhan to lead from the front.
“They (Huggett and Cowhan) are only 22-23 years old but they are among the seniors players in the team now,” he said.
“They have been training really well and I’d expect they’ll really step up.”
Jeffery is also tipping new recruits Alex Ronayne, Andrew Smith and Trenton King to make known their intentions on Friday night for the upcoming season.
“Kingy is another young guy who is ready to step into the team. He is big and tough and he has been training really hard,” Jeffery said.
“I’d expect big things out of Alex (Ronayne); he’s a good young bloke who keeps himself fit and strong, and Smithy.”
Jeffery is confident the new-look Albury outfit is primed to silence naysayers and outspoken critics on Friday.
Thunder commenced preseason training in November, with only a two week break for the Christmas/New Year period.
“I’d like to think we are there to have a crack at winning. I don’t see why you would go if you didn’t think you could have a shot.
“If we play some good footy, and defend well, I can’t see why we wouldn’t be right in it for the finals.”
Jeffrey believes fitness will play a key role in Albury’s West Wyalong Knockout defence and the hunt for an unprecedented fourth-straight Group Nine title this year.
“We are a new team with a lot of new faces,” he said.
“We’ve been training since November because I wanted the boys to be fit and ready.
“They’ve been punished, but we are getting the ball in our hands now.”
Albury will take on Yenda, coached by former Group Nine representative forward Tom Sellars, at 9.50pm on Friday at Ron Crowe Oval.
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