GLOUCESTER Cockies’ impressive performance in a three tries to four loss to the Manning River Ratz last Saturday has coincided with news that their match-winning backrower, Chris Marchant, may make a return to rugby union against the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins tomorrow.
Marchant became a Mid North Coast coaching advisor to new Axemen’s coach Angus Anderson this year, but the drums are beating that the tough, skilful Warringah club product may drag on his boots again at Gloucester Park against the second-placed Dolphins.
The Cockies have done it tough this year as evidenced by their first round 49-12 defeat by the Dolphins at Tuncurry early last month.
But club powerhouse, Mick Wooster, has instilled a new ambition in the mountain men and based on their spirited performance against the Ratz, they have good cause to be quietly optimistic of an upset against the Dolphins at Gloucester Park.
Last Saturday’s postponed second round game was a tremendous affair, highlighted by the Cockies’ superior scrummaging against the hefty Ratz pack.
Gloucester’s Mitch Meredith is a big man and probably the best scrummager in the entire Lower MNC competition, but has played in recent times at No 8 in the back row due to a shoulder injury.
Meredith was in good spirits last weekend and indicated that he could make a return to the front row beside hooker Wooster tomorrow.
The Dolphins have been in a similar situation with their MNC Axeman representative tight-head, Ben Manning, sidelined with a shoulder injury.
In the crisis, two powerful forwards in Gavin Maberly-Smith and Nigel Pereira came to the Dolphins’ rescue, Maberley-Smith emerging from restless retirement and lock Pereira moving into the front row in an experimental role.
Both men have toiled splendidly in the boiler room and must again tomorrow.
The casualties have kept mounting for the Dolphins with their worst injury toll in a decade, fullback Jonathan Paff the most recent loss with a fractured thumb.
The appearance of Zac Palmer at training earlier this season was pleasing for new coach Ron Rae only for the lively back to disappear again when he was most needed.
In other games tomorrow, the third-placed Ratz meet the Old Bar Clams, now coached by Tim Tout, at Taree Rugby Park and unbeaten competition leaders, the Wallamba Bulls, play fourth-placed Myall Coast at Nabiac, a game which will sorely test the Mud Crabs’ resources.