South ready for challenge clash

Jordan Howard has recovered from a hamstring injury and will play for the southern side in the clash against the north on Sunday at the Zone Field.
Jordan Howard has recovered from a hamstring injury and will play for the southern side in the clash against the north on Sunday at the Zone Field.

IT’S out of season, however, Football Mid North Coast Southern Selection squad coach Rod Bartley assures his players are serious about Sunday’s clash against their northern counterparts at the Taree Zone Field.

This will be the first of what is expected to be an annual encounter. The northern and southern sides were originally selected to share a trial game against the Newcastle Jets at Port Macquarie earlier this year.

Bartley led the call for a south/north challenge game to become an annual fixture on the FMNC calendar after the clash with the Jets.

“The timing for this game probably isn’t perfect, but I think it had to be played this year,’’ he said.

“I’m sure they (Football Mid North Coast) will get it right. I think the ideal time to play it would be around when we play the Jets.’’

He agreed the majority of players on both teams will be short of a run.

“The guys from Camden Haven and Tuncurry-Forster haven’t played a game since the last round of the premier league (on August 18),’’ he pointed out.

 "And we've had a few players drop out because of other commitments. But I’d expect the north to be in the same position.’’

However, Bartley assured his players want the bragging rights.

“This is going to be fair dinkum,’’ he said.

Bartley said there’s plenty of rivalry between the two sides, especially the Wallis Lake and Macleay Valley players after these teams played off in the first grade grand final last month. Macleay Valley won the match, inflicting the first defeat on Wallis Lake for the season.

Jackson Witt, Jordan Howard, Lucas Mepham and goal keeper Curtis Jones are the Taree players selected, Aaron Green has been called in as a backup for Jones, who missed the back half of the season because of illness.

“Curtis only played one game after the Jets match, so we’ll have a look at him at training and see how he goes. If he’s out, Greenie will come in,’' Bartley said.

Howard’s season was also disrupted because of a hamstring problem, but Bartley said he’s now 100 per cent fit.

The game will start at 4.30.

Meanwhile Football Mid North Coast chairman Mike Parsons confirmed the game will be a regular fixture on the zone's calendar. However, when it will be played has yet to be determined.

“I’m just happy we've got this off the ground,’’ he added.

Mr Parsons said players and coaches will be consulted before a decision is made when to slot the game in the season’s program.