Captain Damen leads NSW Country rugby team
WOLLONGBAR-Alstonville five-eighth Ben Damen captained NSW Country to a 34-24 win over ACT Brumbies Provincial at Camden Rugby Park on Sunday.
It was his first game back in the Cockatoos side after missing last season with a knee injury.
The 30-year-old was a mainstay in the team before the injury and also captained them on an overseas tour of America in 2014.
It was a big effort to get back in the fold so quickly having only played five competition games and two with Far North Coast at the NSW Country Championships since his return.
A forgettable 2017 saw him miss a tour to Argentina with NSW Country and a fourth straight premiership with the Pioneers in the FNC competition.
"I did all the rehab work properly and a lot of extra stuff on top of that to get back,” Damen said.
"I definitely wanted to come back (to NSW Country) and I think I had a bit of a point to prove when I got there.
"Being away for a year made me want it even more and I was just happy to be back in the team.
"I didn't expect the captaincy but it was a good win and the boys played really well.”
There is a Far North Coast flavour in the team with Paul Jeffery the assistant coach and Pioneers junior Chris Miller playing second row.
Ballina front-rower Sam Pearce was also selected in the squad and would have made his Cockatoos debut before he had to pull out with an injury.
Former Wollongbar-Alstonville flanker James Bell also packed down in the front row for ACT.
It was a convincing win for Country with Brumbies Provincial scoring two late tries to narrow the margin to 10 points.
"We played in front of a really big crowd and it was a home game so we had plenty of support from the Illawarra zone,” Damen said.
"They (ACT) were really competitive at the ruck and most of our points came from our outside backs.
"But I felt like we were always in control and it gives us something to build off.”
The second and final game in the 2018 program will be against Queensland Country on June 30 at Goondiwindi.