The Central West has already produced Australian women’s rugby union representatives in both the sevens and 15-a-side format, but James O’Keefe knows there are more waiting to be discovered.

That is why the experienced coach – who is also a former CSU and Kinross player – wanted to be involved in a joint program with Sydney University and Central West Rugby Union to hunt for the next generation of stars.

On Sunday O’Keefe launched a 12-week Blue Cubs Academy trial program for the region at Bathurst’s Ashwood Park.

With the assistance of two Central West stars – Australian 7s representative Jakiya Whitfeld and former Australian Development squad member Darcie Morrison – O’Keffe put a group of young hopefuls aged between 14 and 19 through their paces.

“I’ve just relocated back from Adelaide coaching in the national sevens series, I’ve been coaching down there for the last three years,” he said.

“I’ve been involved in talking with Sydney for a little while and knowing Jakiya, I was looking to give a bit back.

“The partnership between Central West and Sydney Uni seemed like a pretty good activity and we wanted to get it off the ground. We started at short notice, but we’ll build from here.”

GIVING BACK: Bathurst’s Jakiya Whitfeld has represented Australia in rugby sevens and is now looking to find the next generation of stars in the Central West. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK

The Central West is not only an area which has witnessed a big growth in terms of participation from female players in recent years, but has seen talented players like Whitfeld, Morrison, Claire Woolmington, Claudia McLaren, Majayda Darcy, LillyAnn Mason-Spice and Alahna Ryan go on to compete at higher levels.

O’Keffe feels there is great potential in the region and through the program, hopes some players will go on to join Sydney Uni’s Blue Cub Academy. There is also the potential for an under 16s Central West side to compete in the Frosty Sevens tournament at the end of July.

“There are a couple of girls out Dubbo way who are youth Australian players and AON [University 7s] players as well, and then we’ve got the likes of Jakiya from Bathurst and Darcie, so there are a couple of talented players around and we know there are more out there,” he said.

“Given the opportunity, with the expertise of Jakiya, Darcie and myself, I hope we’ll be able to put together something that is pretty worthwhile for them.

“We’ll focus on the basics and necessities, try and focus on each girl and bring out their skills and hopefully create a good team environment that they feel comfortable in, want to be part of and in that climate excel.

“We are just looking for the predisposition for both 15s and sevens really. So a lot of skill transfer between the two differentiations of the game, but we’ll see what we can pop out.”

While Bathurst held the first week of trials and is likely to again host next Sunday, O’Keefe hopes other venues in the Central West can be visited as well.

“We’ll see how things go, we are looking to do a couple of trials and cover the Central West area. I think we’ll be in Bathurst next week, but we’ll go to Orange and might go to Mudgee and Dubbo, we want to cover a few different areas,” he said.

“So we’ll see how we get on and how the interest pops up. With the Olympics right around the corner, it is a good opportunity to build off the interest of that.”