Leading Senior Constable James Gartside, Senior Constable Mitch Wakeford, Senior Constable Shaun Helt and Senior Constable Mark Hutchinson. Photo: Supplied.

Four local policemen from Cootamundra started training early last month for an upcoming State Rugby League Police competition.

Senior Constables James Gartside, Shaun Helt, Mitch Wakeford and Mark Hutchinson are part of the Southern Steelers Police Rugby League side, which will compete in Tamworth later this month.

There are about 31 players on the squad, with half of those numbers as new faces.

Steelers coach and Detective Senior Constable Nathan Simpson is in his debut season as coach, and he is excited about the depth of players this season, with a majority of them currently still playing first-grade footy at an elite level.

“We’ve got a really good squad this year, arguably one of the best squads put together. We’ve also managed to recruit a lot of younger blokes this year too,” he said.

“Traditionally it’s been a bit of a ‘dad’s army’ side, older blokes turning up and giving it a crack.”

In past carnivals, the Steelers have made semi-finals but fell short in reaching the big stage.

And even with great squad numbers and raw talent raring to go this campaign, coach Simpson is wary of complacency and wants to take it game-by-game.

“You got to be realistic, there are seven other teams along with us eyeing for the same prize,” he said.

“Expectation number one for us is to win our first game and then look to win the second game, and then get out of the pool stage and then semis. Who knows after that.

“It’s about sticking to what our processes are and hopefully results take care of themselves.”

NSW Police Rugby League state carnival is a four-day tournament consisting of three round robin games each, followed by semi-finals and then a grand-final.

A city and a country side are then selected to play each other for bragging rights at a later date.

Outstanding players from the final then get selected into a NSW Police State side to go on to play arch rivals Queensland, often as a curtain raiser to State of Origin.

Besides the Steelers, the other seven teams are made up of a Country North side and then six sides from the Sydney and metro areas such as Manly, eastern suburbs, Parramatta, Penrith and Bankstown.

Cootamundra Country Club Oval is the base for the Steelers season launch for players in the squad who work at Wollongong, South Coast, Riverina and Central West regions.

The camp in Cootamundra will comprise of a field session, team-meeting gym session and a social gathering.

Southern Steelers formed in 2016 when the “Sutherland Sharks” and later the “Country South Boars” evolved into the one side.

Senior Constable and Steelers front rower Mitch Wakeford, who also coaches the Coota Tri-colours, said police footy is all about mateship.

“You meet people from all over the state, we all love our football and we all love a good time.

“It’s a great reminder to ourselves and the community that we are just normal people who enjoy everyday things.”

Since it’s inception, the Steelers often fundraise for both the community and cops that are doing it tough.

Cootamundra coppers profiles for Country Southern Steelers Police Rugby League Football Club:

Senior Constable James Gartside (also captain of the side)

Originally from Kiama, James has been working in Cootamundra for three-and-a-half years and is a lockup keeper for general duties. He’s been a regular member of the Coota Bulldogs first-grade for past seasons and is in his 12th year of police footy. The hard-hitting backrower has also represented NSW Police Country Rugby League side.

Senior Constable Shaun Helt

Originally from Wollongong, Shaun only started working in Cootamundra four months ago as a backup lockup keeper for general duties. The centre/winger comes from a union background and is in his fifth year of police footy. He has also represented NSW Police State Rugby League side and Australian Police Rugby Union side.

Senior Constable Mitch Wakeford

Originally from Wollongong, Mitch started working with the Cootamundra Target Action Group just two years ago. He comes from a rugby union background and is in his 10th year of police footy. The front rower has represented NSW Police State Rugby league side and Australian Police Rugby Union side.

Senior Constable Mark Hutchinson

Originally from Wollongong, Mark started working with Cootamundra Licensing three years ago and is a sports trainer in the side and has been involved in police footy for 18 years.

Christopher Tan