HIS side can't finish any better or worse than third on the ladder, however, Manning Ratz rugby coach Jake Maurirere wants his players to build momentum in the last three matches of the Lower North Coast season.
The Ratz meet co-leaders Wallamba at Nabiac tomorrow before tackling wooden spooners Old Bar and finishing with Myall Coast. It looks certain the Ratz will then play Myall Coast in the minor semi-final at either Nabiac or Tuncurry on Saturday August 5. Both the minor and major semi-final will be played at the minor premier’s home ground.
Maurirere acknowledges that keeping his squad motivated for the next three games will be hard, considering are virtually dead rubbers as far as placings on the ladder are concerned.
“But we want to get on a roll going into the semis,’’ he added.
“Saturday will be a big test for us. Again, it looks as though we won’t be at full strength, but the boys stood up in similar circumstances against Forster a fortnight ago, so I’m expecting the same this week.’’
The Ratz will again be without top backs Izaak Solomon and Jack Chapman because of work commitments. Maurirere was due to settle on their replacements at training last night.
Wallamba and Forster-Tuncurry are locked in a race for the minor semi-final and this is likely to be decided when the sides next clash on July 29.
Dolphins search for replacements
By Phil Wilkins
THE search is on by the Forster-Tuncurry Dolphins to find replacements for the near irreplaceable Naibuka Naqito and Jack Nicholson with the semi-final playoffs of the Lower Mid North Coast Rugby Union premiership just a month away.
“Buka” Naqito, the Dolphins’ powerful Fijian utility player, has accompanied his wife, Kayla, to Alice Springs where she plans to begin a teaching position.
The try-scoring winger-fullback, Nicholson, has returned to Sydney in a bid to establish himself in representative sevens rugby.
The players have been so outstanding that were a Dolphins team-of-the-decade chosen now, both Naqito, a MNC Axeman representative in this year’s NSW Country championships at Port Macquarie, and Nicholson, the MNC Colts winger, would be included.
Players of this quality are hard to find in country rugby union.
In the crisis, Kurt Forester and Rob Avard have returned to the club to fill valuable roles while two new men from rugby league, Johnny Bell and Jackson Smith, have been trialled this month.
Bell ran in two tries in the heavy defeat of the Myall Coast Mudcrabs at Hawks Nest last weekend while Smith has lucklessly strained an Achilles heel tendon.
What was particularly pleasing for coach Ron Rae last Saturday was the performance of Zac Palmer, who displayed considerable speed on the right wing.
Should he train regularly, a position in the Dolphins’ back line seems assured.
The Dolphins are at home tomorrow against the Old Bar Clams. The glory days and premierships of 2009 and 2011 seem distant for the Clams, but new coach Tim Tout is building club spirit and it is to be hoped they return to being a force in the competition in the years to come.
The Gloucester Cockies meet Myall Coast at Gloucester Park, an opportunity for Gloucester to redeem themselves after last weekend’s 80-7 shellacking by Manning River when 12 players ran on against the Ratz at Taree Rugby Park.
In the match of the round, Wallamba, the competition front-runners, play the third-placed Ratz at home at Nabiac.
With three rounds remaining before next month’s final playoffs, the table stands at: Wallamba and Forster Tuncurry 55 points each, Manning River 35, Myall Coast 22, Gloucester 11 and Old Bar two points.
WALLAMBA will be wary of the physical Manning Ratz side in the Lower North Coast Rugby Union clash at Nabiac tomorrow.
The third placed Ratz are traditionally a tough opponent and both encounters with the Bulls this season have been challenging in the scrum and forwards. Despite this the Bulls have been able to dig deep to defeat the Ratz both times, although the first round encounter at Nabiac was a tough affair.
The Bulls are on level terms with Forster-Tuncurry on top of the ladder and are hoping to secure the minor premiership. They can’t afford to stumble against the Taree-based combination if they wish to achieve this goal.
This game promises to have all the action of high stakes rugby for both teams.
The Lower Mid North Coast minor premiership will be decided in the next three weekends with front runners Forster-Tuncurry and Wallamba to meet on July 29.