Wingham will be without top prop for 12 weeks of the Group Three Rugby League season

Wingham prop Rumone Jackson, pictured in action for Old Bar last season, faces 12 weeks on the sideline this year.

Wingham prop Rumone Jackson, pictured in action for Old Bar last season, faces 12 weeks on the sideline this year.

WINGHAM Tigers have suffered an early season blow for the Group Three Rugby League competition with the loss of representative prop Rumone Jackson for up to 12 weeks.

In a similar situation to Old Bar’s Jake Wheeler, Jackson cut tendons in his little finger in a work accident and has undergone surgery. Jackson was a gain for the Tigers this year from Old Bar.

“His doctor told him 12 weeks will be the maximum he’s out, so we’re looking to get him back during the second round,’’ Wingham coach Jamie Moorehead said.

The Tigers wanted Jackson to add size and grunt to their pack this season. However, Moorehead was philosophical about the loss.

“It’s bad luck, but I’m sure Rumone won’t be the only player in Group Three to be out for a few weeks this year,’’ he said.

Wingham will be without two other top forwards for this week. Second rower Joel Kliendienst – one of the best in the group last year – and hard working lock Adam Dale are both unavailable through work commitments. Moorehead said this will give a couple of players on the periphery of first grade selection last year, including Jake Mullen, a chance on Sunday. Mullen missed most of 2016 with a broken arm.

The Tigers will meet Forster-Tuncurry in their first game on Sunday at Tuncurry.

Moorehead was due to settle on his run-on side at training last night. He said the club’s three Kiwi imports Solomona Sio, Theo Lalakai and Marlon Purcell will all be available for selection. Moorehead has confirmed that Trent Green has been training and will start at seven while the majority of last season’s squad will be in line for selection.

He described the first matches as ‘tricky’ for all clubs, given the disruptions to training due to wet weather.

 Bulls look for outside options

A SHORTAGE of outside backs already looms as an Achilles heel for Taree City going into the Group Three Rugby League season.

Coach Gary Bridge concedes the Bulls are light-on in this department as Taree prepares to host unpredictable Macleay Valley in Sunday’s game at the Jack Neal Oval.

Bridge has partnered Paul Campbell with Luke Murray in the centres for this week. Murray is a utility player but usually turns out in the halves or at hooker.

Livewire Dean Mills, who played occasionally in the centres last season, will start at fullback.

“We can’t afford too many injuries in the outside backs this year,’’ Bridge said.

“I might even have to look to our under 18s as replacements.’’

Bridge used a number of players from the 18s in first grade last year and said he is happy to continue with this policy.

Tim Alliston makes his comeback to the club this week after returning from two years overseas. He’ll play off the bench. While better suited to the back row, Alliston has extensive experience in the centres. Newcomer Michael Peachy, a front rower from Dubbo, will also be on the bench but is expected to be given plenty of game time.

Bridge said the Bulls have an abundance forwards, led by hooker Matt Everitt, last season’s group player of the year.

“We’ll obviously look to play to our strengths, which are in the middle,’’ he said.

“But we’ll be looking to run them around a bit.’’

Another Bridge – Todd, the coach’s son will also be on the comeback trail on Sunday. He’ll start at halfback having recovered from knee reconstruction surgery that sidelined him last year. Bridge will partner Sam Murray in the halves.

“Todd tells me he’s right,’’ coach Bridge said.

“Now all he needs is a bit of luck.’’

Todd Bridge played in Taree’s trial game against Singleton in early March. This is the only run the side has had following the wash out of the Group Three pre-season.

Macleay had a disappointing season in 2016 but reports indicate the club has been bolstered by a number of players from the 2014 premiership winning side who have returned to the club.

Pirates on a slow track

AFTER a couple of lean seasons Old Bar look set to mount a serious assault in the Group Three Rugby League premiership in 2017.

Captain-coach Danny Russell said he’s happy with the squad for the opening match of the season against Port Macquarie at Old Bar on Saturday.

His co-coach, Jake Wheeler, will be the only notable absentee. He’s recovering from surgery after badly cutting his finger at work and is resigned to spending much of the season on the sideline.

Three of Old Bar’s New Zealand imports will start the game tomorrow, with a fourth in reserve grade. Other off-season gains, Nathan Maher (five-eighth) and Clint Walker (centre) will also be in the run-on side. Russell will either play lock or halfback, with a decision delayed until last night’s training session. This will also determine where versatile Shaun Carr plays.

However, despite improved weather in the past fortnight Russell warned the Old Bar field will be ‘a slow track.’

The Pirates had a two hour ball work session on Tuesday evening – the first time they’ve run on the ground in more than a month. Russell concedes this means the side could be a bit rusty, but he believes the Sharks will have the same problem.

He said meeting last season’s grand finalists will be the perfect early-season test for the Pirates.

Meanwhile in the other game this weekend Wauchope hosts Port City on Sunday.