Taree City stick with young hooker

TAREE City rugby league coach Gary Bridge will continue to use under 18 player Toby de Stefano in first grade until regular hooker Mick Henry is declared fit to return to the field.

Henry is waiting for the all clear to resume playing after undergoing a knee reconstruction last year. There was speculation he would be back last week, however, de Stefano filled the number nine jumper and was among Taree’s best in the 28-18 win over Wingham.

The Bulls meet Wauchope at the Jack Neal Oval on Sunday.

“I’m going to use Toby a fair bit in first grade this year,’’ Bridge said.

“He’s showed against Wingham he’s up to the job so he’ll be fluctuating between under 18s and first grade.’’

The Bulls have no injury concerns and will field the same squad on Sunday as downed Wingham. Front rower Josh Northam has commitments with the North Coast under 23 side in Cessnock tomorrow so Bridge will monitor his fitness.

“Josh might start from the bench, but he’ll let me know how he is,’’ he said.

Toby de Stefano will stay at hooker for Taree City in Sunday's Group Three Rugby League game against Wauchope at Taree.

Toby de Stefano will stay at hooker for Taree City in Sunday's Group Three Rugby League game against Wauchope at Taree.

The Bulls will be looking for three consecutive wins and the possibility of climbing into the top three with a victory over the Blues.

However, Bridge accepts that he doesn’t know what to expect from Wauchope.

“I haven’t seen them play and I don’t know much about them. I know they’ve lost a couple of experienced players to the Hastings League, but they’ve beaten Wingham this year and we won’t be complacent,’’ he said.

Fitness check for Wingham forwards

MEANWHILE  Wingham were due to check the fitness of a number of forwards before finalising the side for Saturday’s Group Three Rugby League game against Old Bar.

The Tigers go into the clash following successive losses to Wauchope and Taree City.

Two players, centre Tim Bridge and second rower Shannon Ellem will be on North Coast representative duty tomorrow while utility forward Michael Rees is unavailable.

“There’s a couple of forwards I have to check at training tonight,’’ coach Jamie Moorehead said yesterday.

Moorehead said Brodie Myer will come into consideration to replace Bridge.

On a more positive note Moorehead expects prop Rumone Jackson to play more minutes tomorrow against one of his former clubs. Jackson made an earlier-than-expected return from injury last week to bulk up the club’s depleted forward stocks.

“He was three or four weeks ahead of schedule,’’ Moorehead said.

Pirates must respect the football

POOR ball control proved costly for Old Bar in the opening three weeks of the Group Three Rugby League season according to captain-coach Danny Russell.

The Pirates opened their account for 2017 with a big win over Forster-Tuncurry last Sunday. However, according to Russell, the situation could have been much better had Old Bar paid greater respect to the football.

“That cost us three matches,’’ he said, referring to Old Bars losses to Port Macquarie, Macleay Valley and Port City to open the season.

Russell said Old Bar improved in that area last week. However, he wants that trend to continue for Saturday's game against Wingham at the Old Bar Reserve.

“We needed the win last week,’’ Russell said.

“Now hopefully our season will get rolling.’’

Russell said if the side is going forward it opens up more chances for match winning centre Clint Walker, who tormented the Forster-Tuncurry defence last Sunday.

The Pirates will have much the same squad available tomorrow, with North Coast under 23 representative Zeb Samuel unavailable because of commitments in Cessnock against Newcastle.

Russell said he’ll shuffle his forwards to cover for Samuel.

“It’ll depend on who turns up for training,’’ he said when asked who would come into the squad.

It other games Port City meets Port Macquarie on Saturday while Macleay Valley host Forster-Tuncurry on Sunday.

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