Cats tackle premiers in FFA Cup opener

TAREE expects to field close to a full strength side for the first time in the FFA Cup clash against Football Mid North Coast Premier League champions Wallis Lake at Forster on Sunday March 5.

The game will start at 4pm.

Taree has struggled in previous cup fixtures in the past two years as a number of key players, including Ricky Campbell, Jackson Witts and Josh Ferris have been unavailable because of cricket commitments. However, the change of day has rectified that problem.

“We asked for the game to be played on a Sunday so we could get our best side on the field,’’ Taree coach Rod Bartley said.

He said win, lose or draw the FFA Cup is a good way to start the season. The Wildcats will be looking to build on last year’s efforts, where they were beaten in the preliminary semi-final. Taree had a number of players unavailable for that encounter.

Bartley said the club is averaging in the high 20s at training for the two premier league sides.

“A couple of others haven’t been able to get there yet because of work, so we’re looking pretty good at this stage as far as numbers are concerned,’’ he said.

"But we’re still chasing a couple of players.’’

He added that the majority of last year’s roster will be backing up again, while players from the club’s YD1s will move into grade this season.

Bartley said the Wildcats will look to organise a couple of trials regardless of what happens in the FFA Cup, which is a knockout competition.

“I have a couple of connections in Newcastle so we’ll look dwon there while Coffs Harbour’s keen for a game,’’ he said.

However, Bartley pointed out it’s a long pre-season, with the premier league not getting underway until April 22, so he doesn’t want to overdo things.

He said the Wildcats will have a different mindset this year as far as pre-season planning is concerned.

Last season the Wildcats were coming off a horror 2015 when the club finished last in both grades. Taree didn’t win a match in reserve grade.

 As such Bartley put a lot of work into what he described as a culture change within the club.

The fact Taree made the semi-finals in both grades last year proved this was effective, he said.

“It’s a lot different this year,’’ Bartley said.

The Wildcats train at Omaru Park Mondays and Thursdays from 6pm.

Taree will be the only Manning side involved in the premier league this season. The league takes in 10 clubs from Forster-Tuncurry to Kempsey.

Jordan Howard is expected to lead Taree into the FFA Cup clash against Wallis Lake at Forster next month.

Jordan Howard is expected to lead Taree into the FFA Cup clash against Wallis Lake at Forster next month.