WINGHAM Tigers look set to lead the southern charge this year against the decade-long northern dominance of Group Three Rugby League.
Taree City won all three grades in 2007, creating Group Three history. However, it’s been a lean time since, with Forster-Tuncurry’s success in 2011 the only bright spot for the south. Port City, Wauchope, Port Macquarie and Macleay Valley have all won premierships in this time.
Wingham was the best performed southern club in 2016, making the final where they were beaten by eventual premiers Port City.
The Tigers appear to have further improved their roster for 2017, retaining last season’s captain-coach Kurt Lewis as a player while making a couple of key signings.
The Tigers head to the Coffs Harbour Nines tomorrow in what coach Jamie Moorehead said is as much about bonding as football.
“The squad will be a mix of first and reserve graders and under 18s,’’ he said.
“We’re guaranteed three games and then we’ll have a bus trip home. It’ll be a bit of fun.’’
Kurt Lewis, Rumone Jackson, Tim Bridge, Mitch Collins, Shannon Mullay, Michael Bailey and Brodie Myer will be among the first graders making the trip.
Moorehead is hoping to confirm a trial game against Shortland at Wingham on March 11.
“Hopefully it will come off – they’ve just signed Nathan Merrit, so I hope he plays if it does,’’ he said.
Moorehead said the Tigers have also signed a prop from New Zealand and he will be here next month. However, utility back Matt Bridge has left the area, with Moorehead expecting Mullay to slot into his place in the centres. Mullay was a member of Taree City’s premiership winning under 18 side last year but played much of the season as a centre in first grade.
Veteran playmaker Trent Green is expected to pull on the boots again.
“That’s my understanding,’’ Moorehead said.
“Apparently he still has the itch to play football and that’s good enough for me,’’ Moorehead said.
“Trent’s a player we need to have in our side with the experience he brings.’’
He said the club has strong numbers for all grades in a further encouraging sign for the season ahead.