Central North Rugby: Pat Keen making a big impression for Walcha

Try time: Walcha centre Pat Keen races away for one of his three tries against Tamworth on Saturday. Photo: Gareth Gardner
Try time: Walcha centre Pat Keen races away for one of his three tries against Tamworth on Saturday. Photo: Gareth Gardner

Pat Keen was something of a mystery man coming into the Central North season.

Outside of Walcha no-one really knew much about the talented newcomer that had vaulted his way into the Central North side after impressing in their trial against Mid North Coast, or where he had come from.

Turns out New England second grade.

Originally from Garah, Keen played his early rugby with the Goondiwindi Emus before moving north to Queensland and playing with the University of Queensland up there.

He then returned to NSW to help his dad out on his cattle property at Guyra, and played the season with the Ghosts, helping them to the second grade grand final where they were upset by St Alberts.

A key part of what was an undefeated season until the decider, fair to say Keen’s talents were a bit wasted.

Keen to challenge himself and feeling an affinity with the “bushies”, as he referred to them, he linked up with the Rams.

“It’s definitely a step up,” he said of the Central North competition.

It is a 2hr 20min round trip to get to training, although travel is the nature of the beast of bush rugby, and fortunately living in Guyra the crisp Walcha nights aren’t so much of a culture shock.

The scuttlebutt going into the season was that the Rams had lost Country centre Soni Halanukonuka to Newcastle, but had picked some handy players.

And they might yet have another Country centre, with Keen and Rams five eighth Simon Newton both named in the Country squad after pairing up in the centres for Central North at last months Country Championships.

It was Keen’s first real representative opportunity, and saw him playing in the unfamiliar role of 13. 

“I played mostly 12 in Brisbane. But they needed an outside centre, and it probably suited me better,” he said.

The Country selectors obviously saw something in him.

“It was a bit of a surprise,” the 22-year old said about his selection.

“(But) I think if you just do the basics right.”

The Cockatoos have a training camp on May 20, following which the final squad for their three-match program will be named.

Should he pull on the Country gold, Keen might need to thank Bower.

He was the one that roped him into coming along for the MNC trial, with the Kookaburras a bit short.

Bower incidentally also joined the Rams from New England, along with breakaway-come-hooker Dave Healey. All three have different club affiliations with Keen playing for the Ghosts, Bower Barbarians and Healey Armidale.

Keen and Bower were both among the try-scorers for the Rams in their 64-nil thrashing of Tamworth on Saturday, with Keen – playing at inside centre – bagging his second hat-trick in as many games. 

Notoriously slow starters, the Rams have hit the ground running and head into Saturday’s third round trip to Inverell on top of the table after two big wins.