Nine players from last year’s grand final teams of the Lower Mid North Coast rugby union premiership have been included in a provisional MNC Axemen’s squad for the NSW Country championships in Warren from April 27-29.
Five players from Nabiac’s Wallamba Bulls’ premiership-winning team are prop Christiaan Phieffer, fullback Chris Tout, centre James Handford and the breakaway brothers, Daniel and Rhys Hessing.
From the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins, beaten 14-15 in the grand final, are flanker Thomas Homer, five-eighth Matt Nuku, inside-centre Mark Hagarty and backrower/hooker, Troy Haines.
From the Manning River Ratz, players identified are winger Jack Chapman, five-eighth Josh Ross and forward Brody Howard, and from the Gloucester Cockies, brilliant, young utility back, Ryan Yates.
The influence of Gloucester club’s backrower and now zone selector, Chris Marchant, is evident in these early selections, his involvement increasingly significant with Lower MNC players receiving recognition they have long deserved for inclusion in Axemen ranks.
Two players Marchant and head coach, Angus Anderson, produced for the zone last season were Forster’s try-scoring winger, Jack Nicholson, now with West Harbour in Sydney, and backrower “Buka” Naqito, the final try-scorer in the Axemen’s defeat of Far North Coast to escape the second tier Richardson Shield.
Manning River’s captain and splendid backrower, Sam Hartnett, a standout player of the competition in recent seasons with his mobility and skilful play, is another worthy of a position in the train-on squad.
MNC coach Anderson has been a welcome cyclone in the zone. His creativity and introduction of qualified officials in his support staff, men such as former international centres, James Holbeck and Tim Lane, the latter a Sydney premiership-winning coach, have been crucially important.
Coach Anderson said: “After our spectacular performance of 2017, the Axemen have sights set on the State’s power-house zones. This season will see the strongest MNC outfit ever fielded.
“We will take an extended squad to our first camp. Any player interested in the trial and becoming a member of our squad should provide team manager, Arthur Chapman (firstname.lastname@example.org), with details of name, preferred position and if able to trial on Sunday, February 25, for an 11am start at Kempsey Cannonballs’ ground at Crescent Head.
“An overnight camp for 35-40 players will also be held at Kew on March 3-4.”