TAREE'S ultimate sporting warrior, Danial Stone, is off on another campaign in his year-round quest for premiership glory, packing away his bat and ball of summer and seeking winter success as coach of the Manning River rugby side.
Always the bristling competitor, Stone finished his first grade cricket commitments and launched immediately into his rugby role with the Ratz last Saturday, steering them to a decisive 83-3 victory against a seriously under-strength Old Bar Clams at Taree Rugby Park.
Year in, year out, the Ratz are the most formidable rugby challengers, only to be eliminated and the premiership prize snatched from them late in the playoffs. Since the zone was divided and the Lower Mid North Coast premiership formed in 2008, the Ratz have known 11 winters of frustration.
Forster Tuncurry won the title in 2008 and 2010 and inclusively from 2013 to 2016, the Clams won it in 2009 and 2011, Myall Coast Mudcrabs enjoyed their one-off triumph in 2012, and the Wallamba Bulls have been successful for the last two seasons.
Coach Stone will have time to draw breath this Easter long weekend with the Kennards Hire rugby premiership resuming tomorrow week on April 27, the Ratz nicely primed to meet the Dolphins in their always gruelling second round clash at Peter Barclay Field, Tuncurry.
These are desperate days for the once formidable Old Bar Clams. From his bed of frustration as he prepares for surgery to have a titanium kneecap implanted, club stalwart Tim Tout sent out an urgent SOS call for players, young or old, to keep the great club afloat.
Clams life member and former MNC Axeman representative hooker, Teia Ambrosoli, was a bruised and battered veteran after the Ratz ran riot over his team. Tim Tout, father of three first grade rugby sons, Chris, 28, Daniel, 21, and the flying 18-year-old winger, Matthew, had an interesting thought on this season's women's 10-a-side competition, claiming Wauchope Thunder would stun their rivals, including last season's premiers, the swift-moving Gloucester Cockies combination. Certainly, the Thunder women accounted comfortably enough for the usually formidable Wallamba combination, winning their first-round clash, 47-0.
Wallamba's title-defending men's team are something of a mystery, their appointed coach apparently yet to take up residence in the Nabiac area, leaving new club president, Daniel Sawyer, as acting coach.
Certainly, they began the season well enough at home in overcoming the Wauchope Thunder, 17-10, in the Thunder's return after two seasons in the Upper MNC. The draw for April 27 is: Forster v Manning River at Tuncurry; Wallamba v Gloucester at Nabiac; Wauchope v Old Bar at Wauchope.