HE’S in his rookie year of first grade but young second rower Nathan Napier is impressing Old Bar Pirates rugby league co-coach Jason Morrissey.
Napier won all the club awards in Old Bar’s 23-22 loss to Wingham last weekend at Old Bar.
“He's just out of under 18s but he’s setting into first grade without any problems,’’ Morrissey said.
“Natrhan’s not a real big kid but he hits hard and is doing the job for us.
“He doesn’t say much, but he keeps improving every week. Apparently he had a bit of time out of the game, but I’m glad he came back to us.’’
Napier has secured a place in the first grade squad with some impressive performances in the opening month of the season. Morrissey said Napier was one Pirate who didn’t clock off after the Pirates raced to a 12-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes against the Tigers.
Now Old Bar is preparing for Group Three’s toughest road trip, playing unbeaten competition leaders and defending premiers Port City at Port Macquarie on Saturday.
“Obviously they’re the benchmark,’’ Morrissey said of the Breakers.
“So we’re going to have to play set-for-set with them and play percentage football. I know that’s boring, but it wins games.’’
The Pirates will be without North Coast skipper Shannon Ellem, who will be involved in the representative clash at Sawtell. However, the Breakers will also be without a key player who will be with the North Coast squad – electrifying fullback Owen Blair.
The Pirates lost their first game of the season when going down to Wingham. Morrissey believes scoring 12 early points contributed to the downfall. The Pirates were going into the game after a 70-6 shellacking of Forster-Tuncurry the previous match.
“A few of them got complacent,’’ Morrissey said.
“Taking nothing away from Wingham, but we scored those early tries and some thought it was going to be just like the previous week. I just hope that loss doesn’t come back to bite us in the arse at the end of the season,’’
He is sure about one thing tomorrow – the Pirates definitely won’t be complacent.
Meanwhile there’ll be two games on Sunday. Forster-Tuncurry hope utility player Riley Glover can back up from Saturday’s North Coast game for the clash against Port Macquarie at Tuncurry. The Sharks will also have players involved in the representative fixture at Sawtell tomorrow, including hooker Mitch Wilbow.
Macleay Valley will be at home to Wauchope.
Forwards must leads the way for Taree City
TAREE City’s forwards will again have to stand up if the Bulls are to upset Wingham in tomorrow’s Group Three Rugby League game at the Wingham Sporting Complex.
Led by props Josh Northam and Matt Taupe Taree’s forwards paved the way for the win over Forster-Tuncurry last Saturday to break a three game losing streak. However, first grade manager Gary Bridge expects Wingham to be a bigger hurdle.
“The forwards did the job last week and we'll need them to do the same again this Saturday,’’ Bridge said.
Taree will have Jai Simon back from injury while North Coast under 23 representative Dean Mills is also expected to take his place.
While the Bulls finished with the points against the Hawks, Bridge said it was a scrappy effort.
“We’ll have to hold onto the ball against Wingham,’’ he said.
“They’ll be faster than us, so we can’t keep coughing up possession.’’
Bridge added it is a perfect opportunity for the young Taree side to show they are doing more than just making up the numbers in this season’s competition.
Welcome headache for Wingham coach
WINGHAM rugby league captain-coach Danny Russell can feel a headache coming on.
And he’s looking forward to it. Russell said he’s soon going to have a selection headache when all of his players are available.
The Tigers currently hold down second place, three points clear of Old Bar, following their come-from-behind 23-22 win over the Pirates last weekend.
Wingham went into that game without centre Joel Wilson and forwards Jake Mullen and Michael Rees. Wilson and Rees return for tomorrow's clash against Taree City at Wingham, however, Mullen will be playing for North Coast under 23s against Northern Rivers in Sawtell.
“When they’re all right I’m going to have a headache,’’ Russell said.
“But it will be a good headache to have.’’
The Tigers will be without Brodie Myer for tomorrow’s clash, with Wilson expected to slot straight into his spot. Wilson will partner a newcomer, Lonny Clarke, who made a solid debut for the Tigers last week.
“He’s strong and he’s only 19,’’ Russell said.
Russell said the versatile Myer will be an important cog for the Tigers in the campaign.
“He’s my Mr Fixit,’’ Russell said.
“I can play him just about anywhere and I know he’ll do the job.’’