MANNING River Ratz will have a new head coach with a familiar face this winter through the enforced retirement of their classy inside back, Jake Maurirere
An accident in which he damaged a shoulder rotator cuff sidelined Maurirere for much of last season in the Ratz' ultimately frustrating grand final year. Despite surgery, the injury continues to be a major concern.
Maurirere will succeed Danial Stone as head coach of the club although the year-round sportsman, Stone, a versatile and combative rugby and cricket man, will continue his involvement with the club.
As Stone ruefully reported: "Five years as coach, three grand finals - and three losses."
But the hard edge Stone's team invariably brought to the game will continue. Stone will be assistant coach.
In another interesting development, the Ratz New Zealand-born prop forward powerhouse, Bronson Rangi, will utilise his scrummaging skills in a coaching capacity as assistant to women's coach, Dave Rees.
Another considering his playing future in the club is Steve Rees, one of the big men of a formidable pack.
Stone believes the Ratz will again be highly competitive this winter, pointing to the outstanding young players to emerge last season - halfback Bailey Weaver, breakaway Luke Couch and goal-kicking centre Bruwyn Tisdell, who brought aggression into the Ratz' back line when, fatally, they lost play-makers Ricky Campbell and Mitch Carter on the eve of the grand final.
For several seasons, backrower Sam Hartnett has been a pillar of the Ratz club, one of the outstanding captains of the decade, a strong, relentless and skilled so-called "loose forward", one of those often unseen toilers buried in the fire pit of the rucks and mauls.
The Kennards Hire Lower Mid North Coast premiership will kick off on April 4 with the competition draw to be released by MNC executive director, Bob Wilson, later this month.