NOW the Group Three Rugby League season has been done and dusted Taree Biripi Sharks will step up preparations for the annual Aboriginal Knockout to be played at Raymond Terrace starting Saturday, October 5.
This will be the 43rd knockout and it will be hosted by last year's winners, the Newcastle Yowies.
Biripi, or South Taree as the side was previously known, has contested most of the knockouts.
Shane Glass will coach the Sharks this year with Ralph Saunders the manager.
While the squad has been in training for about a month, Saunders said the intensity will pick up now players are no longer involved with clubs sides in the Group Three semi-finals.
He expects the Sharks to field a competitive team. Last year Biripi beat old rivals Macleay before going down to a powerful Griffith side. Griffith included NRL and State of Origin star Andrew Fifita.
The Sharks won't have the benefit of any players with NRL experience.
"We'll be made up of local boys,'' Saunders said.
However, Saunders doesn't believe this is necessarily a disadvantage, saying at times players can be in awe of the NRL stars.
"And they tend to sit back and wait for them to do something,'' he added.
"Our players know they have to work hard for the team.''
Taree City captain Doug Ferguson will be a starter along with Old Bar players Nathan Maher, Aden Avery, Warren Buchanan and Wayne Gahan. Forster-Tuncurry's Wayne Paulson is also having a run while former local, Trae Clarke, who was in the Canberra under 20s squad this year, is expected too. Former Country Seconds representative Clint Walker could also be available.
"We'll have a squad of 23 and support staff,'' Saunders said.
"We'll be giving a few younger blokes a run so they can experience the knockout for the first time,'' he added.
The competition is a genuine knockout.
"There's no second chances,'' Saunders explained.
"Once you're beaten, you're out.''
That can make the action frantic and free flowing and Saunders admits it can be a bit daunting for younger players in their first knockout.
There's a cap of 63 teams for the tournament.
At the time of going to press the draw for the knockout hadn't been finalised. Next year's competition will be at the home town of the winning team, as is the custom.